If you play Intramural sports long enough you begin to recognize the familiar faces. From the gridiron to the court to the pitch, none of those faces are as recurring as Mercer senior Justis Ward.
The biochemistry-molecular biology major, who may be known just as much for his singing voice as he is for his jump shot, entered his final semester of intramural play this spring and is looking to go out with a bang.
Ward has played intramurals all four years and played just about every sport that Mercer has to offer. As of this spring, he will have participated in either the co-rec or men’s divisions (and many times both) of 3 vs. 3 and 5 vs. 5 basketball, football, kickball, sand volleyball, volleyball, 7 vs. 7 and 11 vs. 11 soccer, dodgeball and ultimate frisbee.
Ward said the pressures of such a demanding major call for much of his time to be spent studying, but when he can hang out with his friends, much of it is done in the intramural arena.
“I study a lot . . . when it comes to intramurals – A, it’s just exercise. I enjoy getting out and getting some cardio in, and then B, it’s also a time to hang out. All of my teams have been friends,” Ward said. “It’s a blessing to have athletic friends so we are able to win stuff.”
Winning is something that Ward and his teams have done a lot. According to Ward, his teams have eight championship shirts “in their trophy case.” Many of those belong to co-rec divisions, but Ward admits that he looks forward to the men’s games a little more due to his competitive spirit.
“Men’s you have that very competitive, you know, these dudes are trying to cut your throat out [mentality],” Ward said. “I look forward to them realizing ‘we may not win this game.’”
Intramurals is also a chance for Ward to turn back the clock, especially on the basketball court, where Ward said he spent of much of his time in high school. Basketball is his favorite sport and part of the reason he takes seriously when playing at Mercer. It is not uncommon to see him running 5-on-5 pick-up on the UC courts during the week.
Ward admits that the passion for the sport can cause his and other teams to get a little fired up when it comes to playing, especially during playoff season. Intramurals allowed Ward a chance to relive his high school days, but also gave him a love for another sport.
“I actually discovered, through intramurals, a love for soccer. I never once in my entire life thought, ‘hey, I should play soccer,’” Ward said. “It is a very, very, very fun game and I appreciate intramurals for allowing me the opportunity to find that love.”
Ward applauded Mercer’s intramural program and described how integrated it is in Mercer students’ day-to-day operations. He said that for his friends at other schools, intramurals doesn’t come up in conversation. At Mercer, it’s a part of the culture.
Mercer ranks fifth on the Princeton Review’s “Everybody Plays Intramurals” list. The university has continually climbed the list, ranking 13th in 2011. The Princeton Review is a yearly study of the best colleges and universities by Princeton University and any school that agrees to be a part of the research is reviewed across a number of different categories.
“Mercer’s intramurals has created an atmosphere that it just makes sense to be apart of it,” Ward said. “I highly doubt you get that scale of passion of something at other schools and if you they do, that’s great, but I know Mercer is at the top of that list for sure.”