ANGWIN – Justin Roosma was contacted by several schools, including the University of Portland and Washington State, when he was running cross country and track for Walla Walla Valley Academy in College Place, Washington. He also got a letter from the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I was worried for a while as to what are going to be my options after high school,” Roosma said Friday. “I got some offers to go to some pretty big schools.”
He made his decision, choosing Pacific Union College, a small, Seventh-day Adventist Christian liberal arts school, located in the Napa Valley. Roosma’s uncle, Bob Paulson, is the chairman of the Exercise Science Department at Pacific Union and is a former Pioneers coach who was honored as the California Pacific Conference Coach of the Year for cross country.
“This has definitely been great for me, as I’ve been able to continue to develop my skills,” said Roosma, a freshman, who is majoring in exercise science.
In a very short amount of time, Roosma has become a superstar for Pacific Union, winning two races and finishing second in another race for the men’s cross country team.
He won the annual Pioneer Invitational, hosted by PUC in September, in a time of 20 minutes, 33 seconds, a course record for the four-mile race. Runners from Cal State Maritime Academy (Vallejo) and Sierra Nevada College (Incline Village, NV) were also entered.
Roosma continued the season by finishing second at the San Francisco State Cross Country Invitational last month. He completed the 10K (6.2 miles) race, held at Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadows in a time of 32:50.7. Runners from a combination of 12 NCAA Division II and NAIA schools competed in the race.
“Justin is a great person and easy to work with,” said Dan Muhic, the Pioneers’ coach. “I’m a student of running, and so I continuously do my research of finding better methods to suit him. He’s pushed me outside my comfort zone, so I’ve had to kind of up my game a little bit on what his needs are.
“For me, it’s just sort of creating a foundation, for what his goals and his running plans are, that can fall into meets. Our ideas are fairly similar. We kind of bounce ideas off each other. He’s got his weeks outlined. We see eye to eye a lot on the training right now.”
Most recently Roosma turned in his best performance yet when, on Nov. 1, he set a course record in winning the individual title at the California Pacific Conference Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno, finishing the 8K-race in a time of 24:56.
His victory captured a litany of historical achievements, including being the first freshman to win the CalPac title and being the first PUC athlete to win a CalPac cross country title.
On top of all that, he automatically qualified for the 64th NAIA Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Nov. 22 in Vancouver, Wash.; was named to the All-CalPac first team, as one of the top seven finishers; and recorded the fastest time at a CalPac Championship, bettering the previous mark by 16 seconds, according to a report on the conference’s website, www.calpacathletics.com.
Roosma worked his way from the middle of the pack and surged to the front, overtaking the leaders. He was in 20th place after the first half-mile of the race. He grabbed the lead at the first mile mark. It was back and forth from that point, with Roosma taking the lead again in the last quarter-mile.
“Justin’s a strategist. He’s a smart runner and he knows what he is doing,” said Muhic, who teaches at Napa Christian Campus of Education.
Grady Kerst of Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University (Prescott, AZ) finished second at 24:59, Santiago Hardy of the University of Antelope Valley (Lancaster, CA) was third in 25:14, Javen Hale of Antelope Valley was fourth in 25:16, and Nicholas Hernandez of Embry-Riddle was fifth in 25:26.
“Everyone just went out so hard in the first quarter mile,” said Roosma. “Right after the four-mile mark, we had just gone up a huge hill, and we were in a pack of six. But then three guys fell off of that pack after the hill. So it was just three guys, myself included, and I ended up making a couple of surges. It was just one other guy and I with about a half-mile to go. I was picking up the pace, seeing what I can do, if I could hold on.”
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Roosma (6-foot-1, 140 pounds) said he was in very good shape, thanks to the workouts and training he put in, in advance of the conference meet. There are miles and miles of trails, on hilly terrain, behind PUC that Roosma can use for training runs.
“I always want to win and I put myself in that position to do that,” he said. “I didn’t know really how I would stack up against the other top ranked guys in the conference, because I had never raced them yet. And I never had raced an 8K. I just kind of ran the race by effort, at a pace that I felt I could hold for an 8K, and that happened to be with the lead pack. And so I put myself in a position to do well.”
Roosma was presented with a trophy, medal, hat and shirt following his Cal Pac win, giving his dorm room at PUC a new look.
The national championships is an 8K race that will be held at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash., starting at 10:30 a.m.
Roosma set school records at Walla Walla Valley Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school, for the 800-meter run (1:55), 1,500 (3:57), 1,600 (4:15), 3,000 (9:04), and 3,200 (9:45).
He won the Washington state meet title in the Class 2B boys 1,600-meter race with a personal record time of 4:15.07 at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA in May.
“It was a good season. And going into the state meet, I was really confident. I knew that I had a really good chance of winning the state title,” he said. “I was really happy with it. It was really gratifying to know that the hard work paid off.”
He qualified for the state track and field meet three straight years. He qualified for the state cross country meet twice, but was unable to compete in observance of Seventh-day Adventist religious purposes on Saturdays.
Roosma trained throughout the summer months prior to arriving at PUC. He said it was his best offseason of training that he has ever had. He worked up to running 80 miles per week at one point, and maintained that level for four weeks.
“I put in a lot of work and did a lot of good base building over the summer. I came here in shape,” he said.
Muhic would like to get Roosma, 19, into some track and field meets during the spring, if possible, as an unattached runner.
“He’s an amazing track runner, too, so we don’t want to give up the opportunity to be out there competing,” said Muhic, a PUC graduate, who ran cross country and track at Sir Francis Drake High-San Anselmo and cross country for the Pioneers.
Said Roosma, “I’ve been really impressed with Coach Muhic. I really want to get after the workouts and just crush everything, hammer this and hammer that. But he keeps me accountable and makes sure I stay healthy and don’t do stupid stuff.”
The goal for Roosma at nationals is to get into the top 30 of the race and run a personal record.
“These guys are all very competitive. It’s going to be a tight race on a very narrow course,” said Muhic.