Alumna taking the competitive racing field by storm

February 21, 2018

Growing up in New Jersey, Nikki Justice (’12) had never heard of Liberty University until she was recruited by the school to run track. After traveling to Lynchburg to attend College For A Weekend, Justice met with the track team and quickly fell in love with the university.

The experience proved to be life-changing. Liberty is where Justice’s love for fitness grew and where she met her husband, Philip (’10).

“We had a lot of mutual friends, and he was in my Spanish class, believe it or not,” Justice said. “He is a whole lot shorter than me — like six inches — I don’t know how he saw over me.”

But while at Liberty, Justice was diagnosed with bilateral compartment syndrome, which stopped her from running. Justice now calls this setback a blessing in disguise.

“Coach (Brant) Tolsma and Coach (Lance) Bingham encouraged me to try throwing the javelin since I couldn’t run the times,” Justice said.

Justice said she didn’t see how throwing would be useful, but the skill became an intricate component of her next passion: Spartan racing. The fitness trend, which started in 2007, combines racing and intense obstacle courses.

“I started off as a spectator,” Justice said. “When we were dating, my (now husband) was all amped up about some Spartan race he had signed up for. I had already spent years of my life running in circles. I didn’t need to run anymore, and I just went to support him.”

During his race at the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County, Va., Justice watched him struggle to make it through the 13-mile course.

“I tightened my backpack, hopped over the tape, and started to race with him,” she said. “I actually completed some of the obstacles with the backpack and then I ended up winning a few festival challenges. I was completely hooked.”

Since picking up the sport, Justice has already made waves. She competed on the show “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge” on the Country Music Channel and placed first in Reebok Spartan Race’s U.S. Championship Series West Virginia Super. She was also featured on NBC Sports‘ Spartan World Championships.

“Obstacle course racing in itself is growing,” Justice said. “More people are becoming interested in it. Spartan is trying to get obstacle racing into the 2020 Olympics, so that’s kind of what I’m fighting for right now.”

Justice is currently ranked 14th in the nation among the elite athletes and is hoping to crack into the top 10 this year. When she’s not racing, Justice and her husband run a fitness coaching program, Justice Elite Fitness.

Though it’s been six years since she graduated, Justice said she is proud of being a Liberty graduate.

“Liberty taught me that even in the face of adversity, you can still shine the light of God — no matter where you are or what you’re doing, even in a mud-run or a Spartan race,” Justice said.

Share your accomplishments, career advancements, family news, celebrations, and other life events through Liberty’s Class Notes. Submissions will be published online and may be featured in the Liberty Journal.

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