Jake Justice knows a busy spring awaits – outdoor track season, a trip to New York City, spring break, high school graduation.
And now he knows what awaits him in the fall as well.
The Polk County senior and three-time state pole vault champion is bound for East Carolina, signing a national letter-of-intent Thursday to join the Pirate track and field program. Justice made his decision official during a ceremony in Polk County’d auditorium.
East Carolina began recruiting Justice during last year’s outdoor track season. Finally signing a letter-of-intent to become a Pirate made Justice happy for several reasons.
“It’s definitely a relief to get it out of the way,” he said. “I finally get to just vault and not think about all that college stuff.
“This has been one of my biggest goals, to go to college and pole vault. It means a lot to me to also be one of the only ones in my family to go to college for athletics.”
Polk County pole vault coach Henry Weaver knows much about Justice from their toime together over the past four years. He also knows a good bit about East Carolina’s track program as his son, Josey, is the school’s head cross country coach.
He thinks the combination of the two will be a success.
“This opportunity for him is something he’s worked toward for quite a while,” Weaver said. “I’m happy to see it all come to fruition for him.
“I feel like, legitimiately at the college level, he could be a 17-foot jumper before he finishes his college career. Jake has a lot of natural ability as a jumper, and that combined with his tenacity and his work ethic, has taken him from an eight-foot jumper (as a freshman) to what I call a 15-foot jumper now. I see that every day in practice.”
Weaver said many outside the program have helped play a role in Justice’s development, from local resident Diane Terceira offering facilities for Justice and others to train in during the summer to Polk County athletic director Rex Wells and the school administration. All have helped the quiet Wolverine on the journey to winning two indoor state titles and an outdoor crown, with another one targeted this spring.
“He’s very humble,” Weaver said. “But he’s hungry.”
Justice, who hopes to be a dentist after his college career, is looking forward to taking that drive for success to East Carolina, whose track program has a growing stature in the American Athletic Conference. The school is looking to build its field program and Justice is excited about the opportunity to be part of that.
“When I went down for a visit, I like that the athletic facilities are not far from campus and all the classes are fairly close together,” he said. “It’s a big school, but it feels like a small town.
“I also like that it’s far away. I want to get away from Polk County and get a new perspective.”