Morgantown senior Timothy Johnson stepped on the track at Wheeling Park for the 400 meter dash last Saturday needing a good race.
He was seeded in the slow heat, but that didn’t mean a thing to him. He just desperately wanted a faster time.
“I had been flat lining in times up to that point and really wanted to get to a time where I would be able to help my team and be proud of myself,” Johnson said.
He was nervous as he lined up at the start line, willing himself to finally break through the barrier that had been holding him back.
“I just kept motivating myself, telling myself to go out hard and that I can do it. This helped during the as I was focused on my goal,” he said.
Fast-forward just one minute, and Johnson had finished his race, crossing the finish line first in his heat. He knew he had run fast, but what came next was completely unexpected.
After both heats were finished and the results were finalized, Johnson had dropped a 52.57. He finished second overall at the meet and more importantly recorded the fifth fastest 400 time in Class AAA this spring. One race had moved him from the middle of the pack to state championship contention.
“I was ecstatic,” Johnson said of his performance. “It was just hard to believe at first.”
It was a big moment for Johnson, who, according to MHS head coach Steven Blinco, has taken the 400 on as his event and scratched and clawed to gain success.
“He has mastered his craft over a four-year span and now, as a senior, all of his hard work is paying off and it shows in a big way,” Blinco said.
Johnson enjoys seeing the product of his invested time, and hopes his newfound spot in the upper echelon of the state’s 400 runners will help drive his team to success as the season goes on.
“It feels really good to have the hard work start to pay off, especially after dedicating this entire school year to it,” he said. “It feels even better because I can contribute to my team more now in addition to myself.”
Blinco viewed Johnson’s performance as “gutsy” but was not surprised by his breakthrough. A 400 runner himself, Blinco sees all the inherent qualities of a talented racer in his athlete.
“It takes grit, determination, and a very strong mentality,” he said of the 400. “Tim Johnson checks all three of those boxes.”
MHS assistant Jeff Core sees a special mentality in Johnson as well; the one it takes to compete at an elite level and rise to the cream of the crop.
“He’s that quiet, unassuming kid who is smart enough to digest the competition around him and rise to the level necessary to beat them,” Core said. “It makes Tim the kind of athlete that every coach would find joy in coaching.”
Core believes that mentality will pay out in a huge way come May, when the state track and field community converges at Laidley Field in Charleston for the state championships.
Now that Johnson understands his capabilities, he looks forward to continuing to prove his time as he begins the push for a state championship, both as an individual and as the member of a team.
“I would like to hold where I am now, and place second or even first at the state meet,” Johnson said. “Now that I’ve made a huge jump, I have a lot more confidence in myself to be able to reach new heights and a new mentality of how hard I can push myself.”