A Steadfast Force: WSU's Justin Englund
By Bob Keyser
Meet junior Justin Englund, who has become one of Coach Julian's most consistent and dependable runners. Englund was a three-time MVP of his cross country team at Decatur High in Federal Way, Wash., (tucked away between Seattle and Tacoma), but as his senior year neared an end, he was still searching for the right college home. A number of schools were showing interest, but he wanted to compete at the highest level.
"I called a few coaches," he said. "And I made sure they knew I was interested, and that I was motivated to keep improving. I had a good showing at the state meet [4A] my senior year, and people started to pay a little more attention. The Washington State coaches told me I would have an opportunity to compete for a spot on their team, and I decided to enroll there and walk on."
Work ethic has never been a problem for Englund. On the contrary, his drive to compete and succeed is one of his most valuable assets. So while coming to Pullman as a walk-on might appear daunting to some, it was just another motivating factor for him.
"I train hard, run every day. Just keep working. That's what it has always taken for me to succeed. I do have a strong will to compete, and to win, and that's why I set goals and strive to reach them," he said. "I look at it as a positive - where some other runners might have gotten by on pure ability, without always having to train as hard, I know what I have to do to keep improving. I learned early on about the value of work ethic and dedication."
Coach Julian has developed a great appreciation for Englund and what he brings to the team.
"Every team in this conference needs that one guy who has just been persistent and stubborn, and won't stop working," Julian said. "Justin is consistent, he's stayed healthy, and he gets ten or fifteen seconds faster every season. He trains for weeks upon weeks upon weeks, and he's made himself one of the better members of my team. It's pretty incredible, in the Pac-10, for a walk-on to put himself in that position, to be so motivated and to make that kind of contribution."
And the work ethic carries over into the classroom, where Justin has already earned numerous honors as he pursues a degree in mathematics. This past spring, he was the recipient of the Julie Kerr Scholarship in Mathematics, a high honor within the department, and he also received the Bell Outstanding Freshman award in the spring of 2009.
"I've always been interested in math, ever since I was a kid," he said. "I used to keep a running score at my older brother's basketball games when I was little, and I've always studied the box scores. It probably helps me compete as a runner, because I know statistically what I need to do to improve my own performance, and I'm pretty familiar with the times of all of the competitors around me, so I know what it takes to compete against them."
It's not all running and books, though. Englund does find time to blow off some steam, mostly hanging out with his cross country teammates. "We definitely have a close-knit team, and I spend a lot of time with them when I'm not training or studying," he said. "We're all big sports fans ourselves, and we're all competitive, whether it's golf, or Wii, or fantasy football. I grew up on a golf course, so I've always played, but I've learned to enjoy it more lately and not let it frustrate me quite so much."
But it usually does come back to running.
"Justin's just a runner," Julian explained. "He's got that competitive mentality that makes him want to run. He's one of those guys who I think would run even if you took all of the perks away. That makes him consistent. He's been a steadfast force for us."