New year, same fast start for Justyn Knight

If a season is like a race, then we know Justyn Knight has a habit of getting out of the blocks fast.

For the second season in a row, Knight is putting down fast times and winning races early in the indoor season. While last year’s season was cut short due to the health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Knight hopes these first races of the year are just the beginning.

“It’s awesome to compete and I even watched the races that my friends were in. It was just fun to watch and I’m happy track is back,” said Knight.

Track isn’t the only thing that is back. After stringing together three wins in a row before 2020 shut down, Knight has won two straight races to start this season. He started strong with a world-leading time of 8:13.92 over two miles at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in New York, finishing just shy of the Canadian record. This past weekend, Knight won the men’s 1,500 metres at the Texas Qualifier in Austin, stopping the clock at 3:36.62.

One thing that is different this year is the atmosphere at competitions in this time of pandemic-related restrictions on travel and large crowds. Even the best-organized and best-run meets still have mostly empty stands. “The meet in Texas felt vey professional. But at the same time, the fans in the stands were just other competitors who had competed earlier in the day,” said Knight. “It was kind of cool. There was maybe a little less pressure that way.”

Returning to the track has allowed Knight to pick up right where he left off, a year ago. “For us athletes, a lot of us didn’t have a season last year, and rightfully so. Through that time training and staying focused, just knowing that one day you will be able to compete, I’m just super thankful that I’ve been given an opportunity to run,” he said. “With every opportunity I just want to go out there and leave my mark.”

Knight has been leaving his mark in every race since the 2019 World Athletics Championships. After finishing 10th, Knight and Athletics Canada Head Coach Glenroy Gilbert talked about what was next for the 24-year-old runner.

“I had a phenomenal conversation with Coach Glenroy and from there, my mentality just changed for the better,” he said. “I feel that I can’t accept mediocrity and I have to strive to be the best Justyn Knight that I can be. That comes from holding myself accountable and from pushing myself to work harder, even when I feel like I can’t go any harder.”

Experiencing success on the track the past two seasons only reinforces this mindset, which was more in line with how he attacked his NCAA career where he put in medal-winning performances in cross country, indoor and outdoor races alike. “Making the jump from college, you can get a little starstruck. I’m competing against guys I used to watch on TV,” he said. “I had to get back to the mentality that if I believe in myself, and I work hard, I always have a shot. In my races from 2020 to now, you’ve just seen me believe in myself a lot more.”