On Saturday afternoon in Louisville I stood in the hotel lobby among Syracuse Orange cross-country athletes, coaches, alums and family members. It was a couple of hours after the NCAA Championships and a short time before the team would return to campus. I watched as NCAA Champ Justyn Knight accepted congratulations from those at the hotel. He graciously and patiently spoke with everyone who approached. He posed for countless photos while his parents stood a few feet away.
I went over to congratulate them and remarked to Justyn’s Dad that I’d heard and seen countless occassions where his son had stopped what he was doing to talk. Everytime I’ve seen a person approach Justyn, he has been happy to take time to speak with them, to thank them for their support and to politely accept their praise. Mr. Knight responded that he was glad to see that Justyn had maintained the values his parents had instilled in him and that it was more rewarding to see their son’s actions off the course than it was to see him winning titles. As a parent I find that to be true. You can’t always control winning and losing but you can control how you treat others.
Justyn Knight after winning it all: “I love you, Mom.” pic.twitter.com/4uYUR4FVxE— Matthew Gutierrez (@MatthewGut21) November 18, 2017
In following Justyn’s career since he arrived at Syracuse it comes as no surprise that he was so gracious with his time even after his biggest individual victory. Most times people say they can’t believe how approachable and engaging he is to anyone who wants to speak with him. If you follow him on social media, you’ve probably seen him respond to messages thanking him for taking a post-race photo.
He’s especially welcoming of younger fans of the sport as the images below confirm. While it’s been obvious that Justyn’s been a great runner, people shouldn’t forget that he’s also been a great ambassador for Syracuse University.
On Tuesday Justyn was named the Division I Cross Country Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCA. He’s the first Syracuse and ACC Male runner to receive this honor. His competitors appreciate his sportsmanship and this Saturday was just another example of that ability to immediately recognize those you have just “done battle with”. Athletes don’t like losing but when you respect those who best you in competition it takes a little bit of the sting away.
Since this time of year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what we’re thankful for, I say that Syracuse University Orange fans should be thankful for a young man from Toronto who has represented us with grace and class.
Thank you for being who you are Justyn Knight and for all you’ve done (and will continue to do) to make Syracuse proud!