Running from engineering to apparel design

Cross country runner from Spokane visits Purdue, Washington, Syracuse, Indiana before choosing WSU



WSU senior Justin Janke, far left, runs with his teammates in the 6k race for the WSU Open on Aug. 30 at the Colfax Golf Course.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Former Evergreen reporter

Aspiring apparel designer, shoe collector, chef, Marvel lover, track distance and cross-country runner: All of these passions make up WSU senior Justin Janke.

Justin grew up with a family of runners. His mother ran cross-country at Seattle Pacific University and he has several aunts, uncles and cousins who competed in cross-country or track in high school. Justin said this has led him to run through since he was young.

“It’s kind of a family thing,” Justin said.

He started running competitively later in elementary school, Justin said. As a kid, he also played soccer and baseball, but in late middle school focused only on running.

Coming out of North Central High School in Spokane, Washington, Justin said he looked at the University of Washington, Purdue, Syracuse and Indiana before WSU.

WSU  was the last school he visited, and that was crucial for his choice, Justin said. By choosing WSU, he got to stay close to his family and watch his two younger sisters grow up.

His father, Mark Janke, said being close to home was by no means a part of the criteria for his school selection, but it has been nice for the family. They looked at a variety of factors like the distance running programs, coaches, weather and terrain.

WSU’s athletics program that ultimately sold him, Justin said, and it has been one of his best decisions.

“They do so much for their student-athletes,” he said. “It wasn’t a hard choice — they had what I wanted academically and athletically. It was absolutely perfect.”

Now, the senior is looking to attain a bachelor’s degree in apparel design, which sparked from a love of athletic clothing and running, he said.

Companies like North Face, Brooks, Patagonia and Columbia are the outlets with jobs and opportunities he’d love to work for after he graduates, but Nike and Adidas are “top-notch,” Justin said.

He loves apparel design because of the creativity it brings to a mathematical field. Originally, he planned to major in engineering but quickly learned that it was not for him, Justin said.

“Apparel design has similar ideas to engineering in a lot of ways,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than sitting down and doing calculus.”

Running has affected his choice in major to his hobby of collecting shoes, Justin said.

He has too many pairs of shoes in his collection but is still adding more, Justin said. His favorite pair and one of his most prized possessions are his light gray, blue and black Nike Air “Fear of God.”

He admires his shoes so much that it is difficult to wear them around Pullman for fear ruining his collection, he said.

“It’s a town of dirt roads, you know — I’m afraid to get them dirty,” Justin said. “A good time is going out for team meets — then it’s like okay. Let’s bust out the cool stuff because I’m in an airport.”

The team dynamic is what motivates him the most as an athlete, Justin said.

“Cross-country is a true team sport,” he said. “I can’t ever run for just myself. I’m always thinking about how we’re doing as a team.”

Although he’s found more success in track, he loves cross country because of how tactful it can be, Justin said.

“It’s like a long game of chess,” he said. “You have to push your body so much that it becomes a mental thing.”

Junior Matthew Watkins is Justin’s track and cross-country teammate and roommate. Justin’s willingness to push himself brings leadership and encouragement to both sports, Watkins said.

“He takes on the pace during workouts and brings a lot of good energy,” Watkins said. “He’s just a super positive guy.”

He and Justin have a secret handshake. In one race he trailed Justin but was close enough for them execute their secret handshake after he crossed the finish line, Watkins said.

Another one of Justin’s hobbies is cooking. Watkins said Justin spends a lot of time cooking in an already very busy schedule and his best dish is chicken stir-fry.

“I love food and cooking,” Justin said. “I get on my roommates all the time for leaving dishes out because I love a clean kitchen.”

With the rest of his spare time, Justin said he loves to watch comic book movies and immerse himself in the culture they’ve created.

“I am one of the nerds,” he said. “You’ll catch me at every Marvel premiere ever, hanging out with the guys.”

Justin said he cried three times when he first watched Avengers: Endgame, and two more on the second time watching with his dad, which was confirmed by Mark.

Whether it’s with school, cooking, movies, or athletics, his son’s conscientiousness to do the right thing has served him well, Mark said.

“Justin is a good person. I never have to worry about him, and I’m very proud of him,” he said.

His favorite moments with Justin have come from father-son road trips they have taken together to California for competitive meets, Mark said.

Supporting his son during a big race and spending time with him on California beaches have brought him great joy, Mark said.

Justin said he’s glad he has been able to keep in close contact with his parents because they have pushed his drive as an athlete.

“They have been so supportive,” Justin said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how important they are until much later.”