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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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NC standout Justin Janke headed to WSU

Senior Justin Janke, one of the top cross country runners in the state, will compete for Washington State next season. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Senior Justin Janke, one of the top cross country runners in the state, will compete for Washington State next season. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The best long-distance runner in Washington has decided to stay close to home.

Justin Janke, who captured a State 3A cross country championship last fall while leading North Central to a record 10th straight title, has given Washington State University an oral commitment. He’ll sign a letter of intent next month.

The combination of academic and athletic money means Janke will attend college free of charge. He carries a 4.0 grade-point average.

“It was such a hard decision,” Janke said. “I had so many good choices.”

Janke picked WSU over offers from Washington, Portland, Northern Arizona and Purdue. He visited all the schools.

“Until the end I never really considered WSU,” Janke said. “I thought it was too close to home and I wanted to get away.”

Then Janke visited Pullman and found out he could major in mechanical engineering.

“When I saw everything they could offer both academically and athletically it got to a point where I wondered why would I go to school super far away when I’ve got this really great option next door,” Janke said. “It’s far enough away that my parents can’t come visit me every weekend but close enough so I can come back to Spokane on weekends if I want.”

Janke will run cross country and track.

“It’s a good fit for him,” NC cross country coach Jon Knight said. “It wasn’t really on his radar at first. I was kind of pulling for UW because my daughter is over there.”

Knight hopes Janke is able to re-establish a Spokane influence at Pullman.

“It would be cool to get that pipeline going again,” Knight said.

Janke was named the Gatorade male cross country runner of the year last fall. In addition to winning the state title, he won the Nike Border Clash, the Tracy Walters Invitational and the Richland Invitational. He took sixth at the Nike Cross Nationals Northwest regional championship and seventh at Foot Locker West Regional championships before finishing 25th at the national Foot Locker championships.

“Justin is the product of hard work,” Knight told Gatorade last fall. “He’s a lunch pail kind of kid. He saw what he had to do and he sculpted himself into the runner he became.”

“That was really quite an honor,” Janke said of the Gatorade award.

Janke laughs now that he’s headed to Pullman.

“It’s kind of funny when I realize that what I really wanted was right in front of me the whole time,” he said. “I could have avoided all the recruiting if I had looked at WSU first. It just worked out really well.”

He’ll take 17 credits into college from advance placement classes in high school.

He’s looking forward to his final track season. He wants to break school records in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters and win state titles in both events.

“He’s had a good winter of training,” Knight said. “He’s got a legitimate shot at all of his goals.”

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