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When Hurricane Katrina stormed across the Southeast, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes and relocate across the United States.
Families were uprooted from their lives in a matter of days and had to start over again in a new place. Junior sprinter and jumper Justine Charbonnet of the Baylor women’s track and field team was one of many affected by the devastation New Orleans faced in 2005. Although leaving her home so abruptly was hard, Charbonnet’s story ends well.
The move from New Orleans to Texas resulted in her finding a true passion in track and field and finding her place as a Baylor Bear.
“I ended up living in The Woodlands, Texas, and when I started school, the people I became friends with did track so they encouraged me to do it too,” Charbonnet said. “I guess to get to know people, I started running track and ended up being pretty good at it and really enjoyed it, so it just kind of blossomed from there.”
While at The Woodlands High School, she helped her school’s team to four consecutive district team titles and one regional team title.
Charbonnet currently holds The Woodlands High School school records in the 100 meters, 400 meters, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay, 4×400-meter relay, sprint medley relay and long jump. She also earned the team’s MVP and Most Valuable Sprinter award in 2009 and 2010.
Her story of becoming involved in track is hard to beat, but her journey becoming a Baylor Bear is also one to take note of.
The Woodlands High School has a regional meet that takes place at Baylor every year, but it is usually during a time when the Baylor track coaches aren’t in town to recruit. Charbonnet was looking for a college to continue her track career . This time, the Baylor coaches were available to watch the meet.
“The Baylor coaches usually aren’t there to see any of us compete but that year the swine flu had happened and our meet got pushed back,” Charbonnet said. “The day we ended up having the meet, the Baylor coaches were actually in town. I had a really good weekend at that meet and the coaches saw me and offered me to come to Baylor.”
Since being at Baylor, Charbonnet has brought energy and leadership to the squad and has a set of skills that will help achieve team goals this season.
“She’s a pretty high-energy person,” said teammate Tiffani McReynolds. “She’s definitely the leader with the most energy on the team. While she isn’t the most vocal person, she leads the team by the example she sets every day at practice.”
The Baylor track team opened up its season last month with two wins at the Texas A&M Invitational and the Razorback Invitational.
This weekend, the team will split up to compete in the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., and the Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind.