He was all-state in two sports during the just completed fall sports season. Not only that, he was on his school’s A-honor roll list, finding the perfect balance of athletics and academics.
But Bishop England standout Justin Hafner’s story really grabs your attention when you find out he is a freshman.
Hafner has a tailored schedule to maximize his potential and that’s what separates him from other ninth graders. He competed in two sports, swimming and cross country, at the same time and excelled in both.
As state playoffs approached, BE cross country coach Tony Colizzi allowed some leeway to prepare for the Class AAA state swimming championships. Hafner collected medals and all-state accolades.
A few weeks later, Hafner finished second overall in the state cross country championships to help the Bishops claim their fifth state championship, and their first since 2018.
“I went into the cross country season with relatively low expectations, especially after training with the less intense smaller practice group during the summer,” Hafner said. “Before this season, my fastest 5K time was 18:40. Now, I have run three races under 16:30.
I am really proud that I am now the fastest freshman in BE cross country history. With BE cross country, this is the first time I have trained this consistently as a runner with a group of guys who wanted to race fast and who had fun together.”
And, then there was academics. Hafner hit the books with the same enthusiasm as he has for rocketing out of the starting blocks at a swim meet.
“I was crunched for time many days as I practiced cross country after school and then had swim practice later in the evening so I usually didn’t start homework until 9 p.m. and those nights were tough,” Hafner said. “I am very proud that I made the transition to high school academics and earned all A’s during the first nine weeks, while practicing and competing in two high school sports. The sports schedules worked out so that I only missed one swim meet early in the season due to the first cross country meet, and I
participated in all cross country meets.”
Hafner finished second in the state in cross country championships held at the Sandhills Research Center in Columbia. He covered the 5K course in 16 minutes and 17 seconds.
At the state swim championships, Hafner was a busy guy. He claimed silver medals in the individual 500 freestyle and the medley and 400 freestyle teams. He added a seventh-place finish in the 200 IM.
Bishop England swim coach Rose Van Metre was impressed with her freshman standout.
“Justin is a special student-athlete,” Van Metre said. “He knows what he needs to do to succeed, and he handles his academics well. As an athlete, Justin is very focused and strives to be the best athlete he can be. During practice, he works very hard and encourages his teammates to do the same.
“It is not easy to compete in two sports and keep up with academics,” Van Metre added. “But Justin handled it with ease and managed his time well.”
Hafner’s future looks bright, and he knows he cannot become complacent. He’s planning to compete in track and field this spring and has already set goals for the 2021-22 season
“A team goal is to win back-to-back cross country state championships,” Hafner said. “I would also like to be state champion in the 500 freestyle event.”