We are approaching the end of our top-ten athlete countdown, as only three more athletes are left to reveal. The first of our top three athletes is Justin Easter, a native New Englander from Jay, Maine. The body of work that he put in during his career at Bates is truly astounding. Let’s take a look at Easter’s accomplishments, starting with an anecdote from early in his career.
Easter was competing as a first-year at the outdoor track national championships in the 3,000 Meter Steeplechase, his specialty event, during the spring of 2000. The race is an obstacle event, requiring athletes to hurdle over bars and leap through large puddles of water throughout the course of 7.5 laps around the track. After three laps, Easter was in the lead, and looking like he had every intention of staying in the front of the pack. But during the next lap, one of Easter’s shoes was stepped on by a fellow competitor and came flying off. Instead of dropping out of the race, Easter stayed the course despite falling back to 12th place and demonstrated a powerful kick in the final straightaway of the race, surpassing several runners to capture seventh place overall. This incredible moment of perseverance and grit, finishing one of the most challenging track and field events with only one shoe at the NCAA championships, capped an incredible first year at Bates for Easter. He not only made it to Nationals in the spring for track and field, but also for his other two sports at Bates, cross-country and Nordic skiing.
That’s right; Easter was a 4-year three-sport athlete at Bates, an impressive record in and of itself. But not only did Easter successfully navigate the course load of a NESCAC school as well as playing three sports; he also managed to qualify for Nationals in all three sports in every year of his Bates career, competing in an NCAA-record 12 different national competitions. Easter was a cross-country All-American his junior and senior years, finishing in 19th and 3rd place in those respective years at the national meet. He was an All-American his senior year in Nordic skiing as well, finishing fifth at nationals in the 20k classic race. In addition to these three all-American awards, Easter was a four-time All-American in outdoor track, giving him an impressive seven All-American awards in his career. After establishing himself in a unique and impressive way at the outdoor track and field championships, Easter went on to finish in third place his sophomore year in the steeplechase before becoming a back-to-back national champion in the event his junior and senior years.
If you piece together his accomplishments over the course of the 2002-03 academic year (his senior year), Easter was an All-American in all three of his sports, finishing third in the nation in cross-country, fifth in Nordic skiing, and first in the country in the steeplechase. These accomplishments over the course of a Bates career would have warranted legitimate consideration for this top ten list, much less in a season. Bates has had plenty of incredible athletes, but the versatility and consistency of Easter puts him as one of the best overall, or at least in the top three.