Justin Paige can lap you on the track and run you over while doing so. With speed being such a key element in football, it is not uncommon for athletes to cross over between football and track. The most notable of these athletes, Devon Allen, a junior at University of Oregon, won the NCAA National Championship twice in the 110 meter hurdles. He even went on to race in the Olympics in Rio, placing fifth.
When Montana State hired Jeff Choate as the head football coach, Dale Kennedy, the head track coach, approached him and asked if football players would like the opportunity to participate in track. After 35 years of coaches denying his request, he was surprised by Choate’s candor when he responded with, “I don’t see why not?”
Both men left it up to the discretion of the players and with that, junior receiver Justin Paige saw an opportunity. Having run track in high school at Katy Morgan Ranch in Katy, Texas, it wasn’t new to him. There he competed in the in the 100 and 200 meter relay and made it to the state finals in both events.
In his first collegiate race on Jan. 20, Paige impressed in the 60 meter sprint running it in 7.07 seconds, placing him in fifth. “It was really exciting,” Kennedy remarked, “We lined him up and he did do pretty well after limited practice. He has a real shot at the Big Sky Championships.” Paige also placed ninth in the 200 meter race, running a time of 23.75 seconds.
In his second performance at the Bozeman Running Company Invite on Feb. 4, he kept his 60 meter time consistent running 7.07 seconds again, this time placing sixth. However, in the 200 meter race he improved his time to 22.80, taking third place.
For Paige it wasn’t much different than his approach to football. “I focus on starts and picking up acceleration and speed. [Track is] more about yourself and your technique,” he said. “In football it’s more about preparation of what the other team is doing. Here I’m just focused on what I can do rather than what my opponents are doing.”
Despite the differences in the sports, Paige keeps his routine the same. “I always try and eat healthy so it doesn’t really change for me,” he said. The same goes for academics, “It is time consuming doing two sports academically, but the structure helps. As long as you do your time management, it can be a benefit.”
As the season progresses, Paige hopes to keep it simple, focusing on speed. “Go as fast as I can and come in first at every meet,” he said. In the end he looks to keep improving. Citing his competitive nature, he looks to do well in any avenue he can. But when it comes to how track can affect how he plays football he stated the obvious, “Speed kills. It’s never a bad thing to have too much speed.”