“So blessed to be alive,” Canada’s Justyn Knight wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Lord knows I’ve never been so scared.”
Knight, who is arguably one of the nation’s best shots at an American university (NCAA) championship, shared the gripping details of a frightening travel experience on route to Texas from Syracuse, N.Y. The 20-year-old was one of three Syracuse University athletes, including fellow Canadian Adam Palamar, who experienced multiple failed plane landings as the team approached Detroit International Airport.
“We were on a small plane,” Knight explains. “Winds were like 60 mph, and as we lowered, the plane dropped. The pilot then brought the plane back up. The plane was shaking the whole time. We flew past the airport and ended up landing on the takeoff runaway, which the pilot said was our third and final attempt.”
So blessed to be alive. Lord knows I've never been so scared
— Justyn Knight (@justyn_knight) March 8, 2017
The Toronto native then flew to Houston from Detroit and is situated in College Station, where Texas A&M is located, ahead of Saturday’s NCAA Championships (Division I). Knight will be running the men’s 3,000m in what is the pinnacle of American university athletics. The Canadian finished second at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships this past fall and will be going up against Edward ‘King Ches’ Cheserek.
“The third time we tried to land, I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m not ready to die,'” Knight recalls of the March 8 flight. “I was freaking out. We were in the dark, the pilot or flight attendants didn’t say anything.”
At the time of writing, Knight has just over 24 hours to go until race time.
Still, the well-spoken Knight took the experience and turned it into a positive. “It’s kind of weird in a sense but the experience relaxed me,” he explains. “It made me realize that life is bigger than just winning a race. Looking back on my life, I haven’t accomplished everything I’ve wanted to. So for Saturday, I’m going to treat it [men’s 3,000m] like it’s my last shot.”
Knight, who won two events at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championships in February, has had a near-perfect season minus one blip, which again, he uses to his advantage. He was out-kicked at a race at Iowa State. “When you lose the way I did at Iowa State, it humbles you,” he recalls. “You’re not untouchable, it forces you to work harder and it shows that no one is untouchable.”
He was the recipient of one of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Track Athletes of the Year.
The Canadian will notably go up against Cheserk of the University of Oregon, one of the most decorated runners in NCAA athletics history. “You can’t go into a race for second, you need to go into the race going for the win,” he notes pre-race. Cheserek will be running, in theory, three events ahead of the men’s 3,000m including the mile prelim, mile final (if he makes it), and the 5,000m. Knight will be fresh focusing solely on the 3,000m.
Watch for Knight in the men’s 3,000m at 6:15 CST on Saturday, in addition to Palamar in the men’s mile (prelims) on Friday at 5:45 p.m. CST on Friday.