Justin Wachtel has been a phenom since he first burst onto the running radar in Georgia finishing 2nd at the 2016 MS state championships in the 3200 meters. Wachtel, unlike most freshman boys, began to experience success on the next level quickly. And every year has progressively improved in cross country and track. Last Fall, Justin reached a milestone placing 4th at Foot Locker South advancing to the finals in California. COVID-19 did not deter him from becoming faster, as proved by a video showing Watchel (and now future UVA teammate Andrew Jones) both going sub nine minutes the first week of May at a public track in Gainesville. Thus far, Justin is undefeated this Fall, but a big matchup is coming at Alexander Asics on 10/3 versus Syracuse signee Kamari Miller of Marietta HS and future collegiate teammate Jones. Currently, Wachtel said he is running 45-55 miles a week, so he has a huge upside on the next level. Justin also spent time in Colorado this summer doing high altitude training.
"Happy to announce I have committed to the University of Virginia to continue my athletic and academic journey! Huge thank you to all my family, friends, and coaches who have supported and guided me to this point! I'm so thankful for Mary Persons and the whole community for allowing me the opportunities to get to where I am today. I am so grateful for this opportunity I have been blessed with and I cannot wait to get to work. Looking forward to making big things happen next fall! Go Hoos!"
Four Questions for Justin Wachtel:
What was your recruitment like and what made you decide on Virginia?
The recruiting process was a fun but difficult process. As I went through the process, I quickly realized I had to find what things I valued the most in my decision. I knew I wanted to be a part of a focused, hungry team while also being a strong school academically. Once I narrowed down to my final five schools (UVA, UNC, Stanford, Furman, and NC State), it only got tougher. I spent hours trying to find all the reasons that made one place over the other. I made pros and cons charts, etc. In the end, it came down to Virginia just feeling right. A lot of things clicked at the right time, and I knew it was the right place. Virginia checked off all the boxes academically, location, etc. Vin Lananna as the head coach is a huge plus (google him), and I also felt like the current 1st years were the right fit for me. The team itself was one of the largest deciding factors. I have a lot of trust, that the UVA boys will do big things in the NCAA under Coach Lananna, and I think I will fit in well to the vision.
Talk about your progression as a runner and what it takes to get to this level.
I was first introduced to the sport in 7th grade as a classic middle schooler who knew absolutely nothing about running. My first year was primarily just getting my feet wet in the sport and seeing what it was all about. I will never forget earning my first medal by placing 8th at the Greyhound Invitational. In my 8th-grade year, I set a seemingly outrageous goal by wanting to win state. By this point, I realized that running is straightforward in the fact that you get out what you put in. This was my first year training fairly consistent, and I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder to prove to everyone that I could. I had a great season and ended up placing third at MS state. I built on that season by working hard over the winter and having a good track season -- 9:55 3200m & 4:44 mile. These first two years were so critical in laying down my foundation. I realized that being successful was greatly dependent on what you do during the offseason and how much effort put in. I loved that you get out what you put in. There weren't any shortcuts to it. I also loved the individual side of racing, your result was completely dependent on you. Through my high school career, I have been so blessed to keep a steady progression. The biggest keys for me have been staying consistent and not doing too much too early. I am thankful for my coaches who held me back training-wise while I was still very young. I made sure to slowly up my mileage and not get ahead of myself. There are no shortcuts to the process no matter who you are. Now as a senior I am doing 45-55 miles a week. I always stay in the mindset of making the most of every day. If it is a recovery day, make it the best recovery day possible, so your workout can be the best it possibly can be. In my opinion, nothing beats consistency. Everyone is going to have their ups and downs, but it is important to remember that your downs are what make your high moments happen. It is inevitable that you will face adversity (and it looks different for everyone), but how you handle those times is everything. It's impossible to stop someone who keeps getting up no matter what happens. The ability to persevere is an important part of being able to break through and continue to make those improvements.
What are your goals as you finish up your senior year in XC this fall and with track and field in the Spring?
My goals for the fall are to remain undefeated through the regular season then go under 15:25 on the state course. My primary focus is to qualify for Footlocker then top 3/contend to win at Footlocker Nationals. If Footlocker Nationals gets canceled, my goal is to break 14 minutes for 5000m on the track. I currently have a huge emphasis on controlling my efforts right now, so I can have a large peak in December.
My goals for the spring include going under 8:43 for 3200m and get the state record, sub 4:05 in the mile, 1:53 800m, state win in 3200m & 1600m, get the invite in brooks pr. I am not sure where I will place my focus event wise, but I also want to run a quick 5k and run 50.x 400m split if the opportunity comes.
What are your running goals at the next level as you enter the ACC?
I have not put too much thought into it at this moment, but by the time I graduate, I want to win a team NCCA XC championship and a team NCAA T&Fchampionship. Time-wise, my goals are to break the elusive 4-minute mile and run under 13:30 for 5k. I am very excited to be a part of the ACC as it is quickly becoming one of the best conferences for T&F. Every title will be hard-fought.