BEIJING — It's hard to keep Josh McAdams in just one place.

Born in Atlanta. Became a multi-sport prep standout in Ohio. Started first at a small university in Tennessee, then served an LDS Church mission to Thailand before transferring to BYU. Enjoyed a championship run as a Cougar that took him all over the country in track and cross country, followed by a professional running career with highlights including the world championships in Japan, the Pan American Games in Brazil and the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon.

Up now are Beijing and the 2008 Summer Games, with McAdams set to run his specialty, the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase.

It doesn't sound like a life's pace for a guy who on the track likes to settle back, let someone else take the early lead, watch the race unfold and then make a patented late-race kick to the finish.

"If you go out too hard too early, you pay for it," he said. "You've got to be patient and just know your strategy."

That's the way his sports career has developed as well — patience, late adjustments and a big push at the end.

A standout high school cross country and distance runner and three-time state finisher in wrestling, McAdams chose track as his collegiate sport and Belmont University as his school, before returning from his mission in Thailand and transferring to BYU.

Not surprising, since there is an athletic tradition in the McAdams family — his father, Russ, was a two-time NCAA top-five finisher as a star Cougar wrestler in the late 1960s, with an uncle also an All-American wrestler. And his sister, Christy, was the first BYU gymnast to score a perfect 10.0 in an individual event.

Once at BYU, he tried the steeplechase, bombed his first race and then improved en route to eventually winning the event at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

"That was probably the biggest confidence builder for me — the sweetest victory, and to be able to represent BYU," he said.

Still, an Olympic berth wasn't even on his mind.

That came in early 2007 at Stanford's Cardinal Invitational, when he ripped off a time of 8 minutes, 24.6 seconds and hit both the Olympic "A" standard and earned an invite to the World Championships. While he didn't run his best at the worlds, he did take first at the 2007 USA Outdoor Championships and the 2007 Pan American Games.

In the latter race contested at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, McAdams and U.S. teammate Mike Spence — a former Princeton runner turned pro who lives and trains in Ogden — agreed to take two laps each at a good pace, an American tag-team effort.

"We went 1-2 there," McAdams said. "That was the first time representing the United States and wearing the uniform for the first time. There wasn't any prize money, but the Brazilian people were so warm and receptive."

He also had the chance to meet former BYU and U.S. steeplechase star Henry Marsh, himself a four-time Olympian and holder of the American record for more than a quarter-century.

"I met Henry Marsh at the BYU track office once — I had the privilege of shaking his hand," said McAdams, having watched a couple films of Marsh's former steeplechase workouts and wanting to get his hands on more. "He's kind of an idol to me — and he's short and stocky like me, too."

Earlier this summer, McAdams finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials — true to form, running back in the pack early before pushing late — not to win, but merely to claim one of the top three spots and a berth on the Beijing-bound U.S. team.

After the Beijing Olympics, it's back to being on the run for McAdams — due to start optometry school later this month, while wife Whitney is due to have their first child in October.

And all the time trying to maintain some semblance of a pro running career.


E-mail: taylor@desnews.com