Hart High School alumnus and University of Oregon student Justin Gallegos smiled with his loved ones around him at the Valencia Country Club on Friday.
“Justin always says, ‘Make your goals scary,’” said his mother Tracy.
The hometown celebration brought out family, friends, mentors and supporters of Gallegos, an avid cross-country runner since his Hart days. But Gallegos’ greatest accomplishment was being acknowledged by those at the country club.
“Justin is the first Nike professional athlete with cerebral palsy,” Tracy said. “He was signed back in October, on World Cerebral Palsy Day. He has a contract (with Nike) and it went viral.”
Prior to his contract, Gallegos became an ambassador for Nike, taking part in tests for a new running shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35, which included zippers and were easy to slip on and off. He provided them with input on the shoe’s design until it was decided to classify him as a professional athlete.
Guests at the country club sat and ate as Gallegos’ parents thanked visitors for attending, following a slideshow of their son’s accomplishments as a runner and with Nike.
Looking ahead, Gallegos hopes others don’t feel discouraged by obstacles in their path.
“Things don’t always happen the way you think,” he said. “Through this whole process of the last two and a half years, there have been a lot of twists and turns, things not going the way we would hope they would happen.
“But in the end, because those things didn’t work, they worked out better. Always push yourself and if something doesn’t work out, always find good in something.”
Gallegos’ ambitions continue. While studying journalism in Eugene, Oregon, he ran just at two hours and three minutes during the Eugene Half Marathon last year. Gallegos said he’s determined to run under two hours next time. To his knowledge, it would set the record as the first able-bodied person with cerebral palsy to finish the half marathon.
“Hopefully, in the near future, I’ll be running the full marathon,” he said.