After winning five gold medals in two different sports this fall, Bishop England High School student-athlete Justin Hafner is pondering what he will do for an encore. He is also thinking about his future.
In October, Hafner collected four gold medals as a member of the Bishops’ swimming team at the state meet, including two individual medals and two as a member of relay teams at the University of South Carolina’s natatorium.
If that wasn’t enough, Hafner was crowned the individual champion at the state cross country meet as he covered the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes. Hafner, who owns the BE cross country record, smoked the field by 24 seconds.
Five gold medals would be quite an accomplishment for a career. But that’s his haul for just one season, and the gold medal count should increase next year when he is a senior.
“I’m going to try to do the same thing next year,” Hafner said. “But it will be different. And, it will be more of a challenge. There are some great runners and swimmers across the state.”
Heading into his junior season, Hafner owned one gold medal. He won the 1,600-meter run at the state track and field championships in May.
He came close to winning a cross country title the past two years but finished second his freshman and sophomore years.
Hafner has been a very busy athlete in the fall when he competes in cross country and swimming. Cross country coach Tony Colizzi and swimming coach Rose Van Metre work together to make sure Hafner is prepared but not overworked.
Still, Hafner is one busy student-athlete. It’s not unusual for him to run early in the morning before school and swim afterward, and then it’s time to head home and study.
It’s that kind of dedication and hard work that has made Hafner a standout in the classroom. He is an A student, a member of the National Honor Society and the BE student government association.
With extracurricular accomplishments like that, and the academics to boot, Hafner is considering schools such as Charleston Southern and two military academies: The U.S. Military Academy (West Point) and the U.S. Naval Academy. He hopes to matriculate to a school on the east coast,
“The military academies are tough to get into,” Hafner said. “But cross country and the other extracurricular activities will help.”
Is the life in a service academy a good fit for Hafner?
“That’s a question I have too,” he said.
Hafner was solid gold at the state swim meet when the Coaches’ Classic, one of the biggest cross country meets of the season, was held. He won the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle. He also was on the gold-medal winning 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
“Some of my cross country teammates were joking about me missing the Coaches’ Classic,” Hafner said. “But it was good-natured. I got a lot of texts congratulating me. It was a great feeling.”