After a slight injury in the cross country season, Princeton Community High School senior-to-be Justin Niederhaus didn’t let an injury stop him in the track and field season.
Overcoming a then unknown stress fracture, Niederhaus, son of Bill and Julie Niederhaus with brothers Nate and Will, finished in ninth place at the IHSAA State Track and Field meet at Indiana University in Bloomington to bring a medal back to Princeton Community High School.
Along with a successful cross country and basketball season, Niederhaus is named the 2017 Daily Clarion Male Athlete of the Year.
Justin’s junior year started with cross country in the fall in which he grabbed three invitational wins at Washington, Southridge and Princeton while also claiming the sectional championship. Justin’s best time of the season came at Pike Central during the regional race, finishing in 16:14. At the semi-state race, the junior had a cramp towards the end of the race, preventing advancement to state. Justin was also named a member of the All-Big 8 Conference.
For the basketball season, Justin primarily played at the JV level, though did obtain some varsity minutes.
In the track season, Justin thrived.
During the season, Niederhaus primarily ran the 1600-meter and 800-meter runs, though only ran the 1600 after sectionals. Justin ran a 4:17.25 to place at State, his best time of the post season. Justin took first place at the County meet with a time of 4:23.40 and improved for a first place victory at sectional with a time of 4:21 even. At regionals, Justin took second place with a 4:18.81.
In the 800, Justin finished in first place at the Gibson County meet (2:04.8) and in second at sectionals (2:00.08).
After the track season was over and it was discovered that Justin had ran most of the track postseason with a stress fracture, the senior-to-be wasn’t finished running yet.
Using his arms instead of his legs, Justin set a world record for the fastest 5K time during the Laufenfest 5K this year. In the 3.1 mile distance, Niederhaus finished the 5K in 43 minutes, 59.90 seconds.
Justin is currently recovering from the stress fracture and has begun jogging and hopes to return to form and return to state in track and reach state in cross country.
I recently sat down with Justin to talk about his junior year at PCHS.
What got you into running?
“My dad went to college to run and he only ran his senior year in high school. He fell in love with it there and got into coaching. From then on he had us running since we were able to walk.”
Tell me about your cross country season this year.
“Both my freshman, sophomore and junior year have all not been where I think they should have been compared to my track seasons. I just wish I could have trained a bit harder and did longer miles during the season.”
What does a cramp do to you when you’re in the middle of a run?
“It hurts really bad. Every step is hard to stride out. It was bad and I hated every single moment of it.”
How’d the basketball season go from your eyes?
“I came into basketball and hadn’t shot around much since I came out of cross country. I found my shot around Christmas time and that’s when I got to start playing small varsity minutes. I’d score a couple points. That was the highlight of my season. I’d ball out in JV. That was easy. Easy money.”
You feel like you get an advantage jumping right into basketball from XC?
“For sure. When we run after practice, everyone’s winded and I’m just standing there like ‘oh, we’re done?’”
What some of the differences between track and cross country?
“There are so many different events you can do in track. In cross country, everyone does the same thing. In track you don’t have to run. I like the variety that it has. You can go into a meet and participate in about anything.”
How do you feel your track season went this year?
“I felt like I had a good season early on. Once I got into sectional and the postseason when my leg started hurting, I wish I could have done better even though I placed at state.”
When did you start to notice the leg injury?
“I started noticing it after sectionals. We kept going until state and then figured out a couple of days after state that it was a stress fracture.”
Knowing that your leg was hurt, what were your expectations at state?
“I wanted to place. I wasn’t thinking about anything else at that moment.”
How did it feel when you did place?
“I was pretty hyped about it. I was glad that it was all over and then I could start recovering so I can do it again next season.”
You get a summer off to recover, then you decide to go for a world record on crutches. Where’d that idea come from?
“I was talking to Dustin Mueser about what my next YouTube (search ‘Justin Niederhaus’) video should be and one of us said that I should run Laufenfest. We weren’t thinking about a world record then. I thought about what the record might actually be and if it’s reachable. I looked it up and Guinness World Records says that it’s 44 minutes, 17 seconds. That was just an open door to success right there. We went for it. Most of it was from my arms and left leg, my right leg had a giant boot on it, so it was hard to keep up. I never pushed off of it though.”
What goals do you have for your senior year?
“For cross country, I just want to make it to state. In basketball, I want to dunk on some kid. In track, I’d like to place very high. I want the top-5 in the mile and I’d really like to run the 800 at state and potentially win.”