Bettie Wade is enjoying her retirement from the sport of track and field and has moved forward to do other things in her life.
The former Farmington High School and University of Michigan star rose to the level of being a world-class athlete before calling it quits at the end of 2013.
Wade, who will turn 29 this year, just missed making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the heptathlon. She was fourth in qualifying and 170 points shy of the third and final roster spot.
After refocusing her mind and efforts for another major push, Wade rebounded in 2013, made the U.S. team and competed at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
She had resumed her training late that year, but she was dealt a major setback when her contract with Nike was not renewed.
“Do I continue on without a contract?” Wade asked herself. “A lot of athletes do, but it’s a lot harder. I had put tons of thought into it and asked a lot of people who knew me very well.
“After not making the Olympic team, I took that really hard. Track was not nearly as much fun after that. It turned into more work and less play.
“It was more of a job now. I thought it was the best time for me as an athlete and personally to hang up the spikes and retire. It was time to move on to my long-term career path.”
Next stage of life
Wade, who trained at Kansas State University under coach Cliff Rovelto and was a volunteer assistant coach for the Wildcats, continues to reside in Manhattan, Kan.
She majored in financial mathematics at U-M and is using her degree in her work for Keating and Associates in the financial industry. She also was married in January.
Wade isn’t all that far from her twin brother, Marcellus, who played football at Hillsdale College. He lives in Denver and works in sales.
“Honestly, my priorities have been changing,” she said. “I wasn’t a young 20-year-old anymore. I was looking at getting married and having a family. It was just time.
“The way I look at it – Everything for a season! I had a season for track and field in my life. But I moved on and I’m excited to see where life is going to take me next.”
Wade suffered an Achilles tendon injury in 2013, but she overcame that to make the U.S. World team. That was not a factor in her decision to retire.
“I got back in shape, and it didn’t bother me at all,” she said. “It was all the contract.”
The right decision
Wade still works out at the track and stays involved in the sport by doing some private coaching. As far as competition, she’s done and doesn’t regret retiring when she did.
“Honest to goodness, it was a huge breath of fresh air,” she said. “People would say, ‘You’ll wish you hadn’t made that decision. You won’t be able to watch a track meet; you’ll wish you were there.’
“I think it was a long time coming. I love track; I love the sport. My passion for it is what kept me in it. I had a lot of disappointments. That’s life. You have to pick yourself up.
“I thought I did that after 2012 when I missed the team. I trained really hard and made the next team. I don’t think I ever really gave up.
“But the fun had kind of left me, and it turned into a business. After a while, it was more stressful. ‘I have to get these scores; I have to attain this place; I have to do this to make it worthwhile and earn a living.’
“It became too stressful. I stopped having fun with it. I took it as a sign from God when my contract was not renewed to step away from the competition side of it. I feel great. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
Wade is a five-time Big Ten champion, six-time NCAA All-American, two-time USA combined events champion and 2008 NCAA indoor pentathlon runner-up. Her greatest achievement is making the 2013 U.S. World team, she said.
“I took it extremely hard, not making that 2012 team,” Wade said. “It took a lot for me to pick myself up and throw everything into the 2013 season.
“To come out having made the 2013 team showed me I am resilient and I’m not going to let defeat keep me down.”
Wade was inducted into the U-M Sports Hall of Fame last year, and she will receive the same honor at Farmington High School in September.
“I know there are a lot of great people in there,” she said. “To be in their company is an honor. One of my goals when I was younger was to get into the high school hall of fame. It’s very humbling that they’re giving me that honor.”