Maize South’s Kassidy Johnson made her intentions at Saturday’s state track and field championships clear: She came to become a three-time champion.
Of course, the mild-mannered Johnson didn’t dare tell anyone else that, but winning those three titles -- in the 400 meters, 800 and 1,600 – have motivated her for an entire year.
When the moment finally rolled around and Johnson’s best was required, the Maize South junior rose to the occasion and delivered her best in all three races to win the Class 5A championships in the 400, 800, and 1,600 – just like she planned.
“This is probably the happiest day I’ve ever had,” Johnson said. “A lot of days on the track. A lot of running. I just gave my all to get back to here for this.”
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Since she failed to defend her 400 championship and battled through an injury all of last season, Johnson has been obsessed with redeeming herself at the state meet.
She quit playing club soccer, quit eating fast food, and started training seriously in the winter with Jason Frausto. She started lifting weights with coach Brent Pfeifer for the first time in her life and did everything possible to prepare herself for Saturday.
“I woke up today and tried not to cry,” Karlee Johnson, her mother said. “Not because I was worried, but because I knew how badly she wanted it today.”
The most difficult race for her desired sweep was the 1600, or at least that’s what Johnson’s training camp figured. It was the race she had the least experience in (it was just her fifth race all season) and the most loaded field.
So when Johnson remained in the lead pack with 100 meters to go, everyone was confident she would have the kick to win it. Sure enough, Johnson surged ahead and won going away in a personal-best time of 5 minutes, 10.91 seconds – two seconds faster than second place.
That’s when they knew it could be a special day.
“Then again, I think every day could be a special one with Kass,” Pfeifer said. “She’s such a competitor and has such a big heart.”
Next was the 400, the race that has haunted her for a year straight. Johnson received a push from St. James’ Emma Gossman, but she refused to give in to the pain after basically sprinting the mile.
Johnson edged Gossman down the stretch to win in a personal-best time of 57.73.
“I was really upset with how I performed last year at state in the 400, so that was a lot of motivation for me,” Johnson said. “I really wanted that one.”
But did she have enough left for the 800?
“I was pretty tired, but I just had to push myself,” Johnson said. “I worked so hard to get here and I was so close to my goal, so I just had to leave everything I had in that finish.”
Johnson found the winning kick once again, fighting off Robinson down the final straightaway to win in 2:17.44 -- one-thousands of a second ahead of Robinson.
Her goal was complete.
And now, the real reward.
“Her goal today was to finish running,” Karlee Johnson said, “so she could go eat Freddy’s. She hasn’t had it in a whole year, so she’s definitely going to have some now.”