Helena Magazine

Winning at life

Published 10:54 am Monday, December 12, 2022

By Michelle Love

Photos contributed from Justin Stuckey

The past two years have been a whirlwind of triumphs for Helena’s Justin Stuckey. The track and field athlete has already accomplished an impressive resume of feats in his athletic career.

Stuckey’s athletic career began as a three-sport athlete at Helena High School, taking part in basketball, football and track. While he joked that he only joined track because that’s where the girls were, Stuckey quickly found his calling with the sport.

In the 2021 indoor and outdoor seasons, he set a personal record in the long jump with a 7.15-meter jump, finishing third at the SoCon Indoor Championships. He then won the SoCon high jump title with a 7’ 1.5” mark to qualify for the NCAA Indoor National Championships.

At the NCAAs, Stuckey set a Samford record with a jump of 7.18 meters, or 7’ 1.75”, but the indoors were not the end for Stuckey’s career at Samford. In the outdoor season, he continued to dominate. Stuckey set a new school record in the outdoor men’s high jump and won the individual title.

With his high marks, Stuckey was able to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor National Championships, and one of Stuckey’s most impressive accomplishments is that he competed at the 2020 Olympic Trials in Tokyo.

In April 2022, Stuckey announced he was transferring from Samford to Auburn University. Though he said he had a lot of success on and off the track at Samford, he’s excited to see what Auburn has to offer, and he said so far it’s been a great transition.

“It’s been pretty great so far,” he said. “The track program is doing great. I’m not the only one getting adjusted. I’ve been becoming a leader on the team. People respect what I’ve done on the track and off the track.”

In the short amount of time he’s been at Auburn, Stuckey has continued to apply the same hard work and dedication that got him so far at Samford. Adding to his list of accomplishments, he started the “Stuck in my Thoughts” podcast where he interviews prominent figures in the athletic world. After expressing to a colleague who works for ESPN that he wanted to work for ESPN in the future, the colleague told Stuckey he should look into starting a podcast.

Stuckey said he began listening to the podcast “I Am Athlete,” and it helped him realize he, too, could have his own show. He had his cousin set him up with the audio-visuals and he interviewed, Montrell Washington, a friend of his who was just drafted by the Denver Broncos.

The podcast has had five episodes now, including interviews with individuals such as Matthew Boling (UGA Track&Field Athlete), Lauren Sisler (ESPN Sports Broadcaster), Jim Cavale (Founder of NIL application INFLCR), Bruce Pearl (Auburn Men’s Basketball Head Coach).

Stuckey said he has been enhancing his skills by filming and editing the video and coming up with the interview stories. The whole process takes approximately a week to get everything done from shooting, editing and posting on Youtube. He prefers conversation-style interviews – relaxed, but still professional. He also prefers to approach conversations “unfiltered.”

“It doesn’t have to be so uptight,” he said. “I like to hear what people have to say and express their opinions on different topics. I want people to see the perspective we have as athletes behind the scenes and also even random stuff like relationships. I think it would be fun to talk about a bunch of different topics with these people so you can get to know them.”

So far, Stuckey said his favorite guest on the podcast is his first.

“I would always go with the first one, Montrell Washington,” he said. “That one was more real, a personal conversation. I knew him already pretty well, so that’s what I love about it… because he was willing to be in the episode and hearing his story coming from a small school and going to the pros. But it only builds up from there.”

The podcast takes up a considerable amount of Stuckey’s time, but he said it’s easy when you enjoy it.

“It’s allowed me to meet new people and hear their perspectives, and it’s allowed me to take different stories with me on my track meets,” he said. “It’s great to see something that you put your mind to come to fruition and you’re enjoying it and it’s successful.”

With such a busy schedule, he doesn’t have much time to decompress, but Stuckey said that’s what you sign up for. He has a routine that incorporates his workouts, school, social life and practices, and he said it’s a balance that takes getting used to but isn’t overwhelming.

“This is just what I do, and I love what I do,” he said. “I’m blessed. I don’t feel like there’s anything I shouldn’t be doing right now. Once you get into that groove, it’s honestly just fun.”

Stuckey’s work ethic may seem surprising to some who wouldn’t expect it from someone so young, but to him, striving for greatness has become the standard by which he holds himself. He said he loves the dynamics at Auburn that allow a healthy competition and encourage greatness through what he calls a healthy amount of pressure.

“Pressure is a privilege, or so they say,” he said. “Being here at Auburn, we have a really good team all around on the national stage, and I love being able to talk about the team dynamic. Personally, I’ve qualified for the last three seasons I’ve competed in for a national championship. It isn’t even a thought anymore, that’s just what the standard is. It’s a great opportunity and a great feeling to be able to have this opportunity.”

“The environment and the culture (at Auburn) is about winning,” he continued. “And not just winning every track meet, winning in life. It’s a winning mindset all around and making sure we’re great people all around.”

To Stuckey, mediocrity is never an option.

“I believe in going hard at whatever it is your doing,” he said. “Whether it’s my schooling, my podcast, my relationship with God, you just have to go all in. You can’t substitute hard work.”

Through everything, Stuckey never forgets where he came from, and he goes to Helena frequently to check in and maintain his hometown relationships.

“I’ve been there since I was 5 years old,” Stuckey said. “I remember when the high school was being made. It’s always going to be home to me. You get that good feeling of belonging, people know your name and you have a good relationship with everyone in the city. When you’re from Helena, you’re always from Helena. It’s inspiring to see a place you love so much grow in such a way.”

Stuckey describes himself as an “imperfect person trying to do right,” and he said his relationship with God has served as a considerable driving force in his personal and professional life.

“I’m always looking at how I can improve whether it’s on the track or off the track,” he said. “I just want to make big things happen and represent my name well and show people that with God you can do anything. I’m just blessed. I love the life I’m living.”