Cinnaminson runner Justin Arnold earns national recognition

Cinnaminson runner Justin Arnold is supported by teammates Austin Gabay, Zack Walton, Tommy Ungvarsky and Max Adams during practice.

The track meet was winding down, and some Cinnaminson athletes were starting to scatter before the team could gather for a post-event discussion with the coaches.

It wasn’t a big deal. But it wasn’t exactly right, either.

And Justin Arnold tries to get things exactly right – on the track and on the cross-country course, in the classroom, and in his role as an official and unofficial leader in the school.

“We always try to have a meeting after a meet,” Cinnaminson track coach Dan Fourney said. “Some guys were wandering away, and Justin just tilted his head and was like, ‘Yo fellows, wait until this meeting is over.’

“It was typical Justin. Making sure everybody was doing the right thing, being a leader, but doing it quietly and without drawing attention to himself.”

Arnold is a top distance runner for the Pirates, a standout in cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. He’s a top student with a grade average of 100.1. He’s president of the senior class.

On Friday, Arnold will earn national recognition. He will be honored at a ceremony at his school as a finalist for the U.S. Army/Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence. The award recognizes outstanding high school student athletes who are chosen as finalists based on their excellence in academics, athletics and community service.

Arnold is one of just 25 students in the country to be selected as a finalist. The ceremony is scheduled to include an appearance by Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Reed as well as a representative from the U.S. Army.

In addition, Arnold and the other finalists will be honored in Canton, Ohio, in August during the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement week, which will include the NFL preseason opener. The winner will be announced Aug. 4 at the game and will receive a $2,500 grant from the Hall.

“Completely and totally ecstatic,” Arnold said of his reaction to hearing he was chosen as a finalist. “To be one of [25] in the country, it’s hard to believe.”

Camera icon Elizabeth Robertson/Staff photographer
Cinnaminson High School senior Justin Arnold (front) out for an 8-mile run with his teammates.

Arnold ranks fifth in a class of 193. He has taken 18 honors/advanced placement courses.

Arnold plans to attend Penn and study neuroscience. He wants to become a doctor with a focus in neurology. He also hopes to run at Penn, either as a varsity athlete for the Quakers or perhaps at the club level.

“I’ll try to walk-on if I can,” Arnold said. “If I can’t, I’ll do the club team. I know I want to keep running.”

Distance running has been one of Arnold’s passions since he took up the sport as a sixth grader. He runs every distance from the 800 to the 3,200 for the track team but admits to a preference for cross-country, mainly because of the changing scenery.

“Cross-country is different every time,” said Arnold, who finished sixth at the South Jersey Group 2 meet in the fall, helping the Pirates to a tie for second in the team race. “It’s a different experience every time on the course. Track is always the same.”

Cinnaminson distance-running coach Tim Callinan, who has worked with Arnold in all three seasons, describes the senior athlete as a “utility man” for the Pirates.

“You can put him anywhere, and he will get the job done,” Callinan said. “A guy like that is so valuable to the team.”

Callinan also raves about Arnold’s leadership skills.

“He’s a leader through example but also through humility,” Callinan said. “I was talking to him about this award and saying what a big deal it was, and he was like, ‘Oh, no. This is what I’m supposed to do.’

“He has that quiet integrity about him, to work hard, do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.”

Fourney said Arnold sets the standard for the Pirates’ distance runners.

“I never have to worry about the distance runners doing the right thing,” Fourney said. “Justin will make sure they always do the right thing.”

Arnold was class treasurer as a freshman and sophomore. He decided to run for class president as a junior in part because his father, Jason, was president of his class back in school in East Hartford, Conn.

“That was motivation,” Justin Arnold said.

Arnold has been class president as both a junior and senior.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Arnold said. “Prom. Homecoming. Handling funds. T-shirt designs. All things along those lines. I like it. I like having the responsibility. But it keeps me busy.”

Arnold has a younger sister who is 12 and a younger brother who is 6. He said his role as big brother has helped him develop his leadership skills.

“I know they look up to me and are going to follow me,” Arnold said of his siblings.

Like many distances runners, Arnold said the sport has as much benefit from a mental aspect as a physical one.

Arnold and his teammates prefer to run by the Delaware River in Riverton and Riverside, and along a trail known as “The Hayride” for its use in another time.

“It’s definitely stress-relieving,” Arnold said of running. “On top of everything, it’s just fun. It clears your mind. It’s all mental to me. The sport is physical and mental at the same time.

“Running is my fun.”