PROVO — Olympian Jared Ward knows a thing or two about dealing with nerves.
But the state’s top professional runner and BYU professor found himself dealing with a completely new kind of pre-competition anxiety when he and two other BYU engineers pitched a new product for runners on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
“It was like standing in a room with a bunch of sharks,” said Ward, who finished sixth at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. “We were nervous. ... It feels a lot like when you’re in the bullpen before you walk out to the (starting chute) of a race. You’re in this room, and you know you’re going to be thrown to the sharks. It is intimidating.”
In the episode, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m., Ward and Shaquille Walker, who ran on BYU’s track team, and Jono DiPeri show the potential investors (known as the sharks) the Meteor — a vibrating, heating massage ball. The device was designed by DiPeri and Walker, who approached Ward about trying the Meteor and giving them feedback.
“Foam rolling has been a big thing in running, and companies have been adding vibration to it,” he said of one of the newest trends for runners. “Rolling out, vibration therapy, is really hot in the sports recovery and chronic pain treatment world. The motivation for us was that we thought we could create a quality product at a cheaper price point that’s backed by research.”
Ward said there are cheaper balls or devices that “roll out” knots, stiffness and other painful issues in muscles. There are also much more expensive products.
“We were nervous. ... It feels a lot like when you’re in the bullpen before you walk out to the (starting chute) of a race. You’re in this room, and you know you’re going to be thrown to the sharks. It is intimidating.” — Olympian Jared Ward
“They’re either really cheap or mega expensive,” Ward said of the various products. The Meteor, meanwhile, comes in around $150. “For me it’s been perfect. This ball can fit in my carry on, and I can roll out as soon as I land.”
DiPeri, an engineer, and Walker, the road 800-meter world record holder, used research from their BYU colleagues to help design something that could serve many purposes — sports, surgery recovery, injury rehabilitation, etc. Ward said vibration has become a popular tool to deal with pain and stiffness.
“Vibration became big probably a year and a half ago,” Ward said. “I don’t know why, but that vibrating feeling when you’re rolling out seems to numb the pressure. ... For me, I feel like you get a deeper roll out; if the muscle is vibrating those fibers are going to loosen just a little bit more.”
Ward, who will compete in the New York Marathon next weekend before turning his attention on February’s Olympic trials, said the Meteor not only allows runners to use vibration and rolling wherever they are, it also heats up.
“Heat just adds another element of loosening stiff muscles,” Ward said, saying he’s excited to see what the future holds for the device. The trio launched the Meteor on Kickstarter last year, before applying to compete on “Shark Tank.” They will appear on episode 1103 Sunday.
“This was invented on BYU’s campus and now it’s on ‘Shark Tank.’”