Last night I was able to come out with the W against some world class athletes. My initial feeling was frustration after missing the Olympic standard again by 1 second. However I took a second to really count my blessings. It wasn't about time, or who I beat. To me it was about finishing like a champion again no matter the circumstances. That is something I have not done in months. @athleticscanada I really did try this year. It's been a while since I represented my country. Next time around I will be ready, I promise ???
Justyn Knight, one of Canada’s most promising young distance runners, had his best race of the year on June 23 at the Stumptown Twilight in Gresham, Ore., just outside of Portland. The 19-year-old University of Syracuse student finished just 1.36 seconds off the 13:25 Canadian 5,000m qualifying standard for the Olympics and defeated Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp in the process.
“It was pretty good coming off of NCAAs,” says Knight. “Coach [Chris Fox] told me to run to win and it’s been a while since I won a race. I tried to stay calm and was sitting in around fourth when Galen went. I said ‘I’m not that tired’ so I tried to see what I could do. I know I’m capable of running the Olympic standard, and that was the goal but I just missed some of the opportunities like at Payton Jordan and NCAAs.”
After the race, the Toronto native was approached and congratulated by now-retired Alan Webb at the nearby school where athletes left their gear. The U.S. record holder in the mile told Knight that he had “a great race.”
— Justyn Knight (@justyn_knight) June 24, 2016
Before race day, Knight had his traditional pre-race meal, chicken parmesan. His go-to meal the day of a race is a sandwich from Panera Bread. Before Thursday’s race, Knight spent his downtime watching episodes of Workaholics and going to see the comedy Central Intelligence.
Knight says that he and his coach, Chris Fox, will chat either Sunday or Monday about whether he will attempt to hit the Olympic standard again before the Canadian track and field championships July 7-10 in Edmonton. Running 13:25 in Edmonton will be tough because national championships are often tactical and the city is at slight altitude making it tougher to run fast.
Thursday’s performance comes after, what Knight admits to be, a poor performance at the American collegiate championships in early June where he finished tenth in the 5,000m. Knight knew that Portland was one of the final chances to get the Olympic standard but knows that he has plenty of room for improvement considering his age.
The 19-year-old speedster did, however, acknowledge that fellow Canadian Ross Proudfoot may be in the hunt for standard in the coming weeks. That potentially leaves the door open for a fast race before the qualifying period for the Rio Olympics closes.
Knight has been averaging about 90 kilometres per week in 2016, up from the 55 kilometres he was doing when he first started university in 2014. Because he got into running as a sophomore in high school, he wanted to safely increase his mileage over the years, a big motivating factor for Knight when he chose to attend Syracuse.
The St. Michael’s College School graduate moved into a track house recently with Syracuse teammates. Canadian Adam Palamar, the national junior record holder in the 1,500m, lives across the road. When he’s not running, hanging with friends, or out, his go-to games on PS3 include NBA 2K and FIFA.
Looking ahead, Knight will be spending much of the summer in his hometown of Toronto before heading back to Syracuse in August for cross-country training camp. While back in Ontario, he says he’ll be doing lots of running on his own, though occasionally with the University of Toronto Track Club.
His non-running-related plans include a potential visit back to the U.S. for the Fourth of July and attendance at a Toronto music festival hosted by rapper Drake’s record label.