Inspiring Young Alumni: Catching up with Justyn Knight ’14
From a member of the Asian Association to a basketball and volleyball teammate, Justyn Knight ’14, left his mark at his alma mater even before venturing into his recording-breaking track career.
“During my time at St. Mike’s, I was on the basketball and volleyball teams in Grades 9 and 10,” shares Knight. “I didn’t start running track and cross country until Grades 11 and 12.”
While at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), Knight learned many key life skills such as how to persevere, how to be his best self, and what it takes to be a successful student, which helped him succeed in university. The outstanding student-athlete, who was named ‘Athlete of the Year’ in Grade 12, earned a full scholarship to Syracuse University to pursue his academic and running career. His university career included two NCAA championships, a world championship finalist, and All-American honours in track and field.
After graduating from Syracuse, Knight signed a long-term professional contract with Reebok Boston Track Club but was injured while preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and later compounded the injury during the semifinals. Since then, Knight has spent time resting and going through rehabilitation. Currently, Knight is training for the World Championships, which will take place this summer in Oregon.
"The difficult part was that I couldn’t train too hard, but I couldn’t train too slow at the same time. So, finding that middle balance has been difficult, but it’s been a journey,” says Knight. “That’s just a part of athletics in general and I’m just thankful that right now I’m running again.”
Read on to learn more about Justyn Knight and why he is one of our inspiring young alumni.
How did SMCS prepare you for and propel you into life?
St. Mike’s helped prepare me for life after high school. As a student, I learned that nothing is easy, and anything worth having, you have to work for it. The faculty and staff always challenged us to bring out the best in ourselves, we were to never settle for mediocracy. As students, we were held to very high standards, of being gentlemen and overall good people. One thing that I really noticed that played a huge impact on my time in college was the emphasis on being on time and being well put together.
Academically, the school did challenge me, but it was a good thing. Athletically, I had a great career as a student. And I think most importantly, just being surrounded by teachers and staff that truly want you to succeed at the highest level was very important to have at that age.
When I went to track practice at Syracuse University, there was an emphasis on not being late. While at St. Mike’s, if the bell rang and you were not in class that meant you were late. As I got older, I realized that the world doesn’t wait for me. I think St. Mike’s did a really good job of preparing us in the right manner to be accustomed to what the real world is like.
Do you continue to be involved with SMCS?
I haven’t been back to St. Mike’s since the pandemic started, which is weird to me. Since I live so close, I used to come to the school all the time to talk with the faculty, staff, even sometimes, I’d show up to track and cross-country practices to talk to the team. I’d tell them I’m proud of them. In November 2019, I spent time with SMCS student-athletes, answering their questions, and offering advice as part of the mentorship programme.
In the future, I am hoping to come back for the Athletic Banquet and the Snowball Relays, which is a big event for the track students.
How do you live out the Basilian motto of Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge?
I’ve tried to keep the Basilian motto close to me. The motto is almost embedded in me, it speaks to me and my character in general, almost like we’re on earth for a reason. In terms of goodness, it doesn’t take much to be nice to everyone. We must have discipline for ourselves, to hold ourselves to our own standards and have our own goals to accomplish in life. We need to push ourselves to seek knowledge, I’ve tried to emphasize this in my life. It doesn’t really matter to me, in terms of the friends I have or the people I have met in my life, what someone does for a living or what their accomplishments are, everyone has their own unique and individual story. If people are treated as human beings, I think that’s the most important thing in life, and it goes a long way.
How has the Catholic faith supported you?
I recently had a good talk with my mom about this. My faith has played a huge role in my life in keeping me levelheaded. Oftentimes, people that follow my career only see the ups and the accomplishments, the times that I’m doing well when I have a good head on my shoulders. But there’s a lot of adversity that I’ve faced to reach where I am today. It has felt greater than myself, and sometimes out of my control. I pray to God and ask Him for guidance. I trust that He has my back and that He’s going to help guide me to where I need to be. When I’ve been in my darkest moments, when I have felt that I can’t help myself, it’s nice to know that there’s a higher power looking out for me. I use my faith every day, in terms of how I live my everyday life.
How do you stay connected to SMCS within your community?
As I spend most of my time in the States, I follow St. Mike’s on Twitter and Instagram. St. Mike’s does a really great job of keeping up with both current student and alumni successes. I like to stay in contact that way. LinkedIn is probably one of my favourite social platforms, I’ve followed my friends and my peers. Oftentimes, I wonder, ‘Oh, what are they doing in life or how’s life going for them?’ It seems like our alumni are doing some great things. I have my SMCS teammates on social but sometimes, when I am back in Toronto, I’ll bump into them on a run. It’s always nice to see where they’re at.
How do you demonstrate through work that you are being the best for the world?
The education I received from SMCS and Syracuse led me to social work. I’ve learned how to empathize and see the world, not only through one scope. I try to recognize other people’s feelings, why people think a certain way, and why things are the way they are. Sometimes your experience might not be the same as others. What you see as an easy fix might not necessarily be an easy fix for someone else. I think my degree has helped me become a better person, I strive to have a positive impact on the people I encounter.
What advice do you have for current students?
Always seek help from your teachers. I was an average student, I wasn’t a genius, but I wasn’t necessarily a bad student, either. When teachers say, ‘Come see me after class’, or, you know, ‘If you have any questions let’s schedule a time to go over the material’, they truly mean it. I’ll never forget seeing my science teacher — my worst subject — Ms. O’Grady during lunch. She adjusted the way she taught, specifically for me. I saw a great result in my academic progress reports. To my fellow student-athletes, I would advise them to put just as much effort into their academics as they do their athletics. The potential for receiving both partial athletic and partial academic scholarships is far greater, which could make attending your dream school possible. It takes discipline from both academics and athletics to help get you to where you want to be.
Knight is focused on the 2022 and 2023 World Championships followed by the 2024 Olympics and he is hopeful that these events will be big pushes for him where he’ll be able to accomplish something very special. Off the track, he is looking forward to becoming involved in the SMCS community. Knight and his marketing agents have an idea and are hopeful the team can do something for St. Mike’s.
“One thing that’s special about going to St. Michael’s, is the fact that it truly is a brotherhood. If I was on the train with another St. Michael’s student, you could have a conversation with him,” says Knight. “I feel that can’t be replicated at a lot of schools, where you know your entire class, you know people well enough to have a conversation with them.”
We are glad to feature Justyn Knight as a member of our inspiring young alumni. Inspiring young alumni can be found on the featured wall located across from the main office. These young leaders represent a variety of fields and industries and continue to change their communities by living and leading their lives through faith, character, and service.