Pete Johnson Collapses Right Before The Finish Line Fighting For What He Trained So Hard For


Most cross country practices begin in early July at least. Cross country athletes and coaches sacrifice their summer vacations to get in the mileage and work on their fitness in the grueling Texas heat and humidity.

It's what they do. It's the heart and mindset of a distance runner. To become the best that the can be and to achieve the overall goal for most. That common goal is the state meet. Common -- whether you're home schooled, SPC, TAPPS, or UIL the goal is to get to your state meet and place as high as you can.

For Pete Johnson and Plano West, they are no different. Plano West is one of the many DFW area programs that are good and strong and are always trying to become one of Texas' best programs. The season had been going pretty well. Johnson who came into the season with a 16:09 PR from last year, got off to a good start by winning the Plano ISD XC Invitational. His 16:00.20 just narrowly missed giving him a sub 16 in the first meet of the season. Also, his Plano West teammates also ran well as they took second place in the meet behind a Lucas Lovejoy team that eventually won it's second straight 5A state title last weekend.

"I ran my race the way I wanted to and nothing could be better about that. I ran my heart out and proved that I can run with some of the best, I'll get my chance at NXR."

Pete Johnson - Plano West 

The season was going pretty well as Johnson was collecting PRs and top ten finishes including three wins in some of the biggest meets against the state's top competition. As a team, Plano West was ranked in almost every poll state wide with their strong junior class. The 2017 season was going well and sailing smooth.

At the Region I-6A meet, Johnson was coming in as District Champion and Plano West was coming in as one of the couple of teams with a realistic shot at qualifying for the state meet. Everything they had been working for for the last four months were on the line.

"With 600 meters to go my legs started to tingle, almost like the feeling you get when you run right after taking an ice bath. Then my ears popped and I couldn't hear clearly or distinguish sound too well. In the last 200 meters my vision narrowed down into tunnel vision, I started slowing down and I was falling forward, eventually I collapsed."

Pete Johnson - Plano West 

In a race that was so important, you could feel how electric Mae Simmons Park was on that Lubbock, Texas morning when the race began. Johnson got out and was in the position he wanted through out the race. In fact everything was pretty much a perfectly executed race. 

If you've seen the race video and seen the photos, then you know how things ended for Johnson. Everything he had worked so hard for and put all of his effort came down to one race. Inevitably, everything came down to 15 meters.

Johnson said, "With 600 meters to go my legs started to tingle, almost like the feeling you get when you run right after taking an ice bath. Then my ears popped and I couldn't hear clearly or distinguish sound too well. In the last 200 meters my vision narrowed down into tunnel vision, I started slowing down and I was falling forward, eventually I collapsed."


Johnson was on the ground. The finish line was just steps ahead of him as was his dream and his goal of the state meet. Everything was all slipping away as the other top runners and the last few qualifying spots were passing and slipping away.

Johnson tried to get up and on his feet, but his body would not let him. Runners were dodging and jumping over him as he made whatever attempts his body would allow him to make. The final blow was when one runner did not dodge him and ran him over. Johnson would not get up and an official finally decided he had enough and things were physically dangerous.

"I want to thank all of the people on social media for their genuine concern and their prayers, it really helped me recover from the race and the disappointment of all of it. I think it's so cool how the running community brings people together in ways that are unimaginable. 

Pete Johnson - Plano West

"I was taken to the hospital after I was unable to return my respiration rate and heart rate to normal. 

I was diagnosed with syncope which is when you temporarily lose consciousness, it is caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain."

So, what was it that led to the issues, "It could have been a series of things, maybe the higher elevation, possibly the dryness in Lubbock, but ultimately, my legs just gave out 40 meters to go. The same exact thing happened last year but to a lesser degree, I fell right before the line and was able to get up and finish, it's hard to tell what causes it, my goal for next year will be to change the outcome of the last 200m."


About being so close to the finish and qualifying for state, "Initially, I was upset due to the fact that I haven't had a chance to run at state yet which would have been an opportunity for me to have a breakout race and make a name for myself. However, one thing I've learned throughout my high school career is that you can't dwell on your losses, to survive in this sport you have to keep a positive mind and go into every workout and every race with determination and a goal in mind. I am not discouraged by the fact that I don't get to run at state because NXR is right around the corner, I'm planning on doing everything I can to place well, one thing I know for sure is that I'm going to finish on empty."

"I don't think much will change about how I run my races, I will push my body to the breaking point and then push a little harder, that's cross country after all, isn't it?"

Pete Johnson - Plano West
"All I was thinking in that final stretch was that I only had a little bit of running left, all I had to do was finish the race. I knew that I was close and I didn't want to let the team down, my only goal when I was down was to find a way to get up and finish."

"I want to thank all of the people on social media for their genuine concern and their prayers, it really helped me recover from the race and the disappointment of all of it. I think it's so cool how the running community brings people together in ways that are unimaginable. People express affection to a total stranger with one thing in common, running. I also want to thank all of my teammates, my classmates and my family for the overwhelming support they've given me, it would be hard to run cross without them."

"I ran my race the way I wanted to and nothing could be better about that. I ran my heart out and proved that I can run with some of the best, I'll get my chance at NXR."

"I don't think much will change about how I run my races, I will push my body to the breaking point and then push a little harder, that's cross country after all, isn't it?"

Pete Johnson's Personal Records
  • 800m - 1:58.19
  • 1600m - 4:26.11
  • 1 Mile (in) - 4:58.74
  • 3200m (in) - 9:58.23
  • 3200m - 9:41.68
  • 3 Mile (xc) - 16:23.53
  • 5K (xc) - 15:32.80
  • 5K - 15:45.10
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