Alex track: Wensia Johnson bursts onto the state sceneThose who didn’t know about Wensia Johnson coming into the Class AA state track and field meet now have a better idea of the kind of talent this 8th grader from Alexandria possesses.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Those who didn’t know about Wensia Johnson coming into the Class AA state track and field meet now have a better idea of the kind of talent this 8th grader from Alexandria possesses.
Johnson was born in Haiti and came to Alexandria with her younger sister when they were adopted in 2004. Every time she takes the track, she does so with a little more on her mind than just winning and losing.
“I always do it for my family and the people here,” Johnson said after winning the 200-meter state title on Saturday. “But I always do it for the children there who don’t get to have a chance. This goes out to them. I really thank God for bringing me here because so many girls would die to be here.”
That’s why her record-setting weekend in front of a packed house at Hamline University in St. Paul meant a little more to her. Johnson gave all in attendance a glimpse of how bright her future is in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
She set the state record in the 100 prelims on Friday with a time of 11.74. She ran an 11.83 in the finals, but Taylor Anderson of Hopkins edged her with her own record-setting time of 11.71.
Almost two hours after that race ended, Johnson returned the favor. She edged Anderson by .24 seconds in the 200 with a time of 24.26 that gave her the first of what could be many state titles for her before all is said and done.
“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “I just wanted this all year. I’m finally getting my chance. I was hurt at the beginning of the year, and then I started in May. The progress that I’ve made has been good.”
It was a knee injury that kept Johnson out until Alexandria’s home Tri on May 15. Head coach Mike Empting never questioned her ability coming into the state meet, but he wondered how she would handle a close race without a lot of training behind her.
It proved to be a non-issue over the weekend. Johnson ran three races each day, helping the 4x100 team of Gabrielle Koel, Briquelle Bowden and Madi Urman finish third with a time of 48.62 between running her individual races on Saturday.
“I thought she did a great job of handling the pressures,” Empting said. “The state meet, especially being just an 8th grader, competing in three events both days. I think she’s come a long ways throughout the season. She showed a tremendous amount of character after being the favorite in the 100 and regrouping to win the 200.”
Johnson quickly proved that talent trumps a lot of other variables when it comes to sprint races. She went into the weekend believing she was fast enough to do exactly what she did. It didn’t take long to make believers out of everyone in attendance.
“That really helps me, the fans and my family,” Johnson said. “But I also have to believe in myself. You have to really believe in yourself.”
Now the question becomes how fast can she get once she has a full season of good health? Johnson said she has already reached her goal in the 200 with her times and now it’s just a matter of trying to lower that every time out. In the 100, she has her sights set on a time of 11.60.
“I know it’s a high goal,” she said. “But it’s something you can reach for…I haven’t reached [my ceiling]. I can do better.”
Empting agrees. If Johnson couples her natural talent with hard work, this could be just the start of a special career in a Cardinal uniform.
“I think she was capable of 11.60 this year with a full season of training behind her,” Empting said. “There’s a lot that goes into being a female sprinter as they get older. They have to become more dedicated to training. If she sticks with it, gets serious about strength training, remains serious about being a sprinter and that type of power athlete, I think she’s capable of the low 11s by the time she’s all done in the 100.”