If not for a last-minute scheduling change, Justin Im would have been writing a school exam at the moment his name was called as the Town Crier Athlete of the Year for 2006.
Im’s school allowed him to write his exam an hour and a half earlier so he could attend the annual breakfast banquet honouring school athletes. He wasn’t told why this concession was being made, but it all became clear when he was handed the top award.
The graduating North Toronto student was caught a bit off guard when he realized his name was going to be called at the awards breakfast. But Im confessed that he didn’t worry about winning when he went to the Summit House Grill where the banquet was held – all he wanted was a hearty meal.
"When I was told there was a breakfast, I was like ‘It better be a good breakfast if I have to get up that early’," said Im. "But it was a nice surprise and well worth the early morning."
When the Town Crier found out Im had a 9 a.m. exam on the morning of the awards event, school staff arranged to have the exam start at 7:30 a.m., but only for the 17-year-old.
"Procedures with exams are very strict, you can’t get out of an exam no matter what," said Im. "So I was a bit suspicious the administration would make an exception, but I am really grateful to be recognized."
If there was any doubt to Im’s selection as Athlete of the Year, his athletic and academic resumes erase any second-guessing. He was a member of North Toronto’s soccer, golf, hockey, cross-country, swimming, rugby and track & field teams.
He was a key member of the Norsemen hockey team that captured the Tier 1 South Region championship and the rugby squad that won the Tier 2 South Region title. Im, who was also the Boys’ Athletic Association president, was also recognized as the track MVP for 2006, his second such honour in three years.
The rigours of high school sports did not hurt Im academically, as he maintained a 92.5 per cent average in his final year.
He was nominated for school valedictorian and for the Sifton Award, which honours North Toronto’s top male student.
Im, who was also a member of the school’s symphonic and marching bands, has a giving personality as well.
He was the coordinator of the Hurricane Katrina relief fund and was a youth leader for Smartrisk No Regrets, a program that looks to prevent the high percentage of teenage deaths caused by injuries.
Despite all his credentials, Im said he never thought winning the overall Athlete of the Year award was possible.
"I wasn’t expecting anything at all. I’m not a superb athlete in any particular thing, but I try to be involved in so many different things," he said. "I’ve been blessed with the ability to learn new sports quickly and I guess it has paid off."
Lorne Smith, head of boys’ physical education at North Toronto, nominated Im and could not say enough about his commitment. Smith said there was not much debate about picking Im as the school’ male athlete of the year.
"(Im) is a terrific student-athlete and a great leader," said Smith. "He was practically a unanimous choice as athlete of the year. He is one of my top 10 students I’ve had (at North Toronto).
Ramping up towards graduating high school and starting university in the fall did not stop Im from being involved as much as he was. He admitted he does not have an answer on how he managed to do everything, but was gracious he had the ability to do so.
"I’m at school for 10 hours a day, so I guess that once I get going, I can’t really stop," said Im, who was also member of Student Council. "I prefer to be busy, that way I can do more things."
Im has two months of relative free time before he heads to Montreal where he will attend McGill University to study concurrent education, with plans to head into medicine.
While the demands of university are tough, Im does not plan to stop playing sports and being involved.
"I plan to stay active, playing in house leagues, pick-up or working out myself. Athletics is huge part of my life," he said.
"I have no plans to slow down," said Im. "I will stop when I’m in my grave."