Jack Flood’s mind is free. He feels no pressure and he’s ready to go.
That’s a significant change from last March. The Blue Point native and decathlete was preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympic trials. A fundraiser in his name had just handed him a hefty check and it all hit him. He had to perform, and soon.
Then, the pandemic hit and all that pressure magically washed away. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were postponed until this summer and Flood was able to take a breath. Nursing an injury, Flood was afforded some valuable time to heal and reset his focus.
"Taking a break and getting away from the sport really helped me," said Flood, who won a state championship at Bayport-Blue Point High School in the five-event outdoor pentathlon in 2013. "It made me hungry when I started training again in August."
That hunger never faded and the feast is fast approaching. Flood, who lives in Morrisville, North Carolina, will compete at the Olympic Trials on June 19-20 at the University of Oregon. He’ll need a top-3 finish and score 8,350 or more points to make the U.S. team and compete at the Olympics (July 23-Aug. 8 in Tokyo).
"Expectations are a good thing and a bad thing," said the 25-year-old. "I don't want to go in with expectations and then, if something bad happens, be disappointed. So, I'm going there to show off the work I’ve done and to have fun. This is an experience that may never happen again. Who knows what happens?"
With less than a month to go before his Olympic chance, it would make sense for that pressure to come roaring back. But it hasn’t. For Flood, pressure is so 2020.
"When I started training again, I was ready to go," said Flood, who is an assistant track coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. "The time off really helped me. I feel no pressure because I'm prepared."
In his final prep meet before the trials, the Mount Olive First Chance and Multi Meet, held May 14-15 in North Carolina, Flood won the decathlon with 8,038 points – 231 points ahead of the field and 312 short of what he’ll need to score at the trials.
The two-day decathlon consists of 10 events. On the first day, Flood will compete in the 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400. On the second day, it's the 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500.
Flood said he trains six days a week, working with his coach, Mike Young, out of Athletic Lab, a sport science research and training facility in Morrisville.
"It’s still pretty intense," Flood said. "Ten days leading up to the trials, we're going to back off, so it's not going to be as much volume. We're going to really hold back and freshen up to be super fresh for [the trials]."
Flood won the 2017 NCAA Division III outdoor decathlon and indoor heptathlon (seven events) national championships while at SUNY Cortland. He placed third in the heptathlon at the U.S. Track and Field Indoor Championships in 2019 and ’20 and eighth in the decathlon at the 2019 U.S. Outdoor Championships.
It was at those 2019 championships where Flood first thought seriously about his Olympic dreams.
"There were athletes there that I saw and I was just like, ‘You know, this person can do it. Why not me? Why can't I do it?" Flood said. "…I just knew it was going to take time and a lot of hard work. Whether it happens here in 2021, or happens in 2024, I believe it will happen. It's a matter of time and hard work."
Flood fundraises on GoFundMe to help defer the costs of the trip to the trials, which he estimates will be about $10,000. As of this week he'd raised $5,715 according to the website.
But once he’s there, it’ll be all about getting even further than Oregon – Tokyo.
"I need to execute what I'm capable of," he said. "I’ve got to show up that day and compete with the best in the USA and show everyone, ‘This is Jack Flood, this is what he represents’ and just do it."