Poplarville’s Johnson gets ahead of pack, wins district for second year in a row

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2017

Recently, Poplarville High School track star Janelle Johnson became a two-time 7-4A District Champion in both the 3200 meter and 1600 meter track races.

Last year, Johnson won the same races to become the district champion, but the second time around was a different experience for the gifted sophomore.

“Last year my heart wasn’t in it. I just ran because I enjoyed it. But this year, I have been training hard and really putting everything I got into track,” Johnson said, who has an ambition to reach the Olympic stage.

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During her training, Johnson ran as part of the school’s cross-country team to stay in shape for track season. During the final cross-country meet, Johnson placed third out of almost 300 runners. Even though it was not enough for the Hornets long distance runner, it added more fuel for her to keep training.

What motivated Johnson to train harder for track wasn’t to prove she was the best; she wanted to push herself to the limit and see exactly what she could do. When she was a freshman on the varsity track team, she raced against one of the best runners in the state, Pass Christian senior Regen McGee, and always trailed behind. The next year, McGee graduated, which left an open spot for Johnson to become number one.

“I wanted to be the girl she was to me, the one that worked hard to get to the front and ahead of everyone. I know it’s going to take a lot of work and I am now dedicated to get there,” Johnson said.

Johnson went undefeated this year in the 3200-meter race, persisting through personal bests while witnessing improvements as she progressed through the season.

Now, Johnson has set her eyes on her goal of standing at the top of the podium as the state champion in the 3200-meter race.

“It would mean that all of my hard work would pay off if I were to win state. Running means a lot to me,” she said.

On April 22, Johnson will go to the Regional Championship meet to compete in both the 3200 and 1600 meter races. The top three runners will then advance to the South State Championship. The top 3 runners will finally go to the State Championship meet on May 6.