Despite a quiet, unassuming manner, Justin Weegar invites admiration, maybe even hero-worship. And it’s for all the right reasons.
The image of Justin breaking down and hugging Aimee Copeland’s dad after the Run for Aimee 5K in June as he won the race and handed back the prize money is indelibly etched. Add to that a similar image of Justin bringing everyone to tears, himself included, on Saturday in Evans as he blistered through the Jingle Jam 10K in just more than 35 minutes to take the top prize.
The emotions poured out because the Jingle Jam is a fundraiser for Safe Homes, an organization dedicated to helping women in abusive relationships. Justin’s mother, Misty, was a victim of such a relationship, murdered two years ago. The organizers of the Jingle Jam knew that. Understandably, to see a win from someone with such a deep kinship to their cause was more than many of them could handle. Justin was awarded the prize amid cheers, hugs and sobs.
What’s truly amazing is that Justin is just a sophomore. He attends Evans High School where he’s a star on the cross country team. He’s probably only going to get faster, which is pretty scary.
Oddly enough, Justin said he almost was unable to run Saturday because of a sore foot that kept him awake most of the night before, and he felt slowed down until he broke in a new pair of shoes he’d gotten for the race.
Good grief. He finished far ahead of the nearest competitor, and outran me (admittedly, very much a novice) by nearly twice my pace. And that was with a sore foot. His mom certainly would be proud.
A couple of months ago, when sports writer Scott Rouch profiled Justin in The News-Times Athlete Spotlight, Justin’s dad Tim said, “I think it is a big source of his inspiration to run for his mom. ... I think he uses that as one of his main motivational factors when he’s running.”
Justin, in turn, motivates a lot of others – including me.
Expect to hear a lot more from Justin Weegar in the future. That kid is going places, and getting there faster than most.
Park is a hit
The Jingle Jam was a great event Saturday, and it was nice having it segue into the Columbia County Fox Family Christmas and tree-lighting at Towne Center Park, followed by the Martinez-Evans Christmas Parade the next day.
The three events brought out huge crowds. The Columbia County Merchants Association had someone come up with an estimate, pegging the parade at 8,500 to 10,000 spectators. That seems reasonable.
Likewise, the events Saturday drew hefty crowds. I’m not sure we’ve ever had so many in attendance for the tree lighting, beefed up by all the folks who came out to enjoy the rides and expanded festivities.
The centerpiece for all these events was Evans Towne Center Park itself. I’m not sure we fully appreciate just how integral a part this facility now plays in the life of our community, but this past weekend’s events certainly highlight its value.
The tree-lighting Saturday was the 12th annual event for the county. The amazing part continues to be that, until 12 years ago, we didn’t have a Columbia County tree lighting.
Meanwhile, Grovetown also lit its tree this past Friday, again turning on more lights than anyone else in the area. Harlem will light its tree on Thursday and hold its parade Saturday morning.
And speaking of Christmas trees, The News-Times again this year is seeking photos of Columbia County children to use as ornaments on the tree in our lobby. One child will be chosen at random as the “star” of the tree, and we’ll print their photos on a tree in the paper on Dec. 23, just in time for Christmas.
Email photos to cnt@newstimes online.com, or bring prints (wallet-sized school photos are perfect) to our office in the Publix shopping center on Washington Road in Evans, or mail them to 4272 Washington Road, Ste. 3B, Evans, Ga., 30809. The deadline is Dec. 17.