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Meade still running toward a graduation ceremony

Douglas Fritz • May 25, 2020 at 6:00 PM

Perhaps before Luke Meade gets to walk across the stage, he may have to match the 15,248 miles Forest Gump ran in the blockbuster movie.

Or maybe it just seems that way.

The track standout’s journey began in Bluff City before moving to Greenville, South Carolina. He’s headed now to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a chance to compete among the nation’s best athletes.

But will the third time be the charm for getting to attend a graduation ceremony?

During his senior year in high school in 2016, the Sullivan East track star missed graduation to compete in the state sectional meet.

“We didn’t have time to get there after the meet,” Meade said. “It was something you worked for your entire life. To have to miss it was really tough. But I had priorities with running, and I went on to accomplish a lot of great things running track and cross country.”

Meade had already signed to run track at Furman, so he changed his focus to a second chance at a graduation ceremony.

“In high school I said, ‘Well, I will get to graduate from college and that will be just as important and meaningful,’ ” Meade said. “And then it was taken away.”

The coronavirus pandemic intervened this time and Meade was unable to enjoy the recognition for completing his degree at Furman earlier this month. Meade said he took that in stride as well.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate. I try not to feel too slighted. I understand the circumstances. This is necessary for people’s health and saving people’s lives ultimately.”

But there could be one more shot. Even though he’s graduated from Furman, Meade had a year of NCAA eligibility remaining because of a redshirt year. He entered the transfer portal and had plenty of options before choosing Arkansas.

Meade, who has his bachelor’s degree in political and international affairs, will compete with the Razorbacks while working on a master’s degree in operations management. He expects to finish the 30-hour degree in one year and hopefully walk the stage this time.

“I guess I will get to graduate from Arkansas,” he said.

Meade said the decision to miss graduation in high school was based in part on what was ahead of him. He won the 2015 TSSAA Class A-AA championship in the 3,200-meter run and followed it up with a cross country state title in the fall.

And he believed more success was ahead at the state track meet in 2016.

“It was sort of the culmination of my career,” Meade said. “I felt like I was capable of winning more titles, and I wanted to prove something to myself.”

He won two more titles, in the 800 and 1,600.

In college, he was an All-Southern Conference performer in the 2018-19 indoor season in the 3,000-meter run. In the outdoor season, he was All-Southern Conference in the 5,000 and 10,000. He also made the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll.

He posted some national level times, which eventually opened the door to run at Arkansas.

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