The Race Of His Life: Autistic Runner Finds Strength, Friendship With Team - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/2/06-Winona

The Race Of His Life: Autistic Runner Finds Strength, Friendship With Team

Justin Jones loves two things: comic books and running.

"I'm a fast learner and very fast. I passed three people," Justin said with a smile. "I work out in cross country every morning."

Justin is just a freshman at Winona High School but is already a member of the varsity cross country team. He is not only one of the youngest members of the team but one of the best. His hard work has inspired an entire community.

You see, Justin is autistic.

"Justin, he is very committed," said Winona cross country coach Scott Evans. "We practice at six in the morning three or four days a week and he is here and never misses a practice."

"I never feel tired," Justin said of his races.

"He just never stops," Coach Evans said. "He never stops running. He runs as hard as he can as long as he can."

Justin's love for running came in the seventh grade when he noticed he was faster than the other kids. With rising confidence, he knew in high school he wanted to become part of a team.

"August 1, when we started practice for cross country he was out here and has been ever since."

Justin can run three miles in 17 minutes and 29 seconds.

"He's knocked five minutes off his time from the beginning of the year until now," Coach Evans said.

"I came in first place when I (ran) in Winona, third place in Martin's Mill, and fifth at Union Grove," Justin said.

Coach Evans said because of Justin's disability, he can sometimes be shy. But, when he's out on the track, there is not a trace of shyness.

Justin has formed special bonds with his teammates and he and the Wildcats are headed to the state qualifying meet this weekend.

"Going to the ultimate tournament," Justin said. "There will be more than 200 people. That's a lot of guys."

When asked if he thought he could beat them all, Justin simply said, "I think so."
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