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06/08/2022 12:00 AM

Shiffrin Goes the Distance with the Grizzlies

Justin Shiffrin served as a captain for Guilford’s cross country and track teams as a senior and ran his way to success with all three programs. Photo courtesy of Justin Shiffrin

Justin Shiffrin has mastered the art of running as an athlete at Guilford High School. A senior captain for the boys’ cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams, Justin backs up his leadership role with a remarkable list of achievements as a member of all three programs.

Justin played soccer throughout his early childhood, but then had a change of heart in his freshman year at Guilford. Justin’s older brother Jacob encouraged him to try running, and so he gave it a shot. Justin started competing for the indoor track team as a freshman and continued running through the outdoor season.

“He did it as a freshman and really enjoyed it—loved the team, the atmosphere—and that’s something I really wanted to be a part of,” says Justin of his brother. “He really pushed me to be a part of the team, so I tried it out, and I really loved it.”

Justin emerged as a distance runner while competing in both cross country and track in his sophomore year. Justin refined his techniques and steadily improved his times to establish himself as an influential athlete with all three teams. By watching the older runners, Justin knew that he had to take his work ethic to the next level.

“They wanted to win the state title in cross country, so I knew I had to step up my work ethic and tenacity to be able to train with them and compete at a higher level,” Justin says. “That’s really where my work ethic kind of started I guess.”

Justin’s dedication led to him earning recognition following some noteworthy performances in his junior year, when Justin was named a captain for Guilford’s cross country and indoor track teams. The work ethic that his brother displayed provided the ideal example for Justin as he stepped into the captain’s role.

“Early in my high school career, I was already surrounded with a very driven and hard-working person with my brother,” says Justin. “That really dropped off on me, and I had to keep that ball rolling and bring that work ethic to practice each day.”

Justin’s work ethic helped him compile a list of accomplishments to feel proud about. In track, Justin competes in the 800, the 1,600, and the 3,200, along with the 4x400 and 4x800 relays. Last spring, Justin and his 4x800 relay advanced to the State Open and finished in 12th place. Justin then began his senior year by making the All-SCC Second Team in cross country, marking his second-straight All-Conference accolade.

Now, Justin is in the home stretch of a solid senior season with the outdoor track team. Justin took first place in both the 800 and the 1,600 at the SCC East Sectional Championship, after which he finished third for the 800 in the SCC Championship.

At last week’s Class MM State Championship meet, Justin helped Guilford’s 4x400 relay finish in second place and also contributed to a fifth-place performance with his 4x800 relay. Justin has medaled in all nine events in which he’s participated thus far during the postseason, including a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 at the Class M meet that qualified him to run the event at the State Open.

Head Coach George Cooksey is extremely impressed with Justin’s ability to string together strong performances while doing an excellent job of leading the Grizzlies.

“He’s a really solid competitor. He rises to the occasion. Everything a coach wants, Justin really takes a care of a lot of that,” Cooksey says. “He’s a great leader for the kids by example. He does everything right himself, and he’s completely dedicated to doing the right thing.”

Justin prides himself on doing the right thing every time that he laces up his sneakers. Justin has been working hard since his freshman season and felt pleased to see those efforts pay off with captaincy for each of his teams as a senior. Justin believes that holding both himself and his teammates accountable has played a major role in his success this year.

“I really stepped it up from previous years. I was really driven to hit certain time goals and whatnot. I was really dedicated, and that also rubbed off on the rest of the team,” says Justin. “I’m always trying to push them to be the best that they could be and try to keep them accountable.”

The environments of Guilford’s cross country and track programs help Justin succeed in whatever event he’s competing in. Justin’s teammates also make the whole experience all the more enjoyable.

“It’s a great environment to be in when everyone’s working towards the same goal to get better, get faster, get stronger, to run to a team goal of getting a first place or a specific time,” Justin says. “You get to confide with people you’ve never would’ve talked to outside of the sport. It’s really special, the bonds that we have all have with each other, and we really all trust each other.”

Justin is looking forward to competing at the Division I level with the track and field team at Bryant University after he graduates from Guilford. With the realization that the next chapter of his life is approaching, Justin wants to finish his Grizzlies’ career knowing that he’s carved out a legacy on both the track and the trails.

“I always wanted to be with those top guys and make them proud of my times. Now, I am that senior,” says Justin. “I got to be a good role model every day and make sure they put in that work and they that they should strive for greatness.”