Sometimes in track and field things are pretty simple. You train, compete, rinse, wash, and repeat. For many of the athletes in our sport they are trying to qualify for their respective state meets as well as earn a college scholarship. Of course, there is signing day and everything it has become in football and basketball, which has spilled into the track and field world.
The hoopla of having cake, balloons, with family and friends on National Signing Day is high on the wish list of many young athletes today - but it doesn't always happen that way.
For recent 2018 McKinney graduate and hurdler Antwuane Johnson, neither having a regular senior track season nor signing on National Signing Day really happened for him this past year.
When January rolls around seniors have to go into urgency mode to turn out the best last minute performances they can in order to get a shot at a college scholarship. That was the exact mode and set of circumstances facing Johnson in the 2018. As the days and months passed, the window was slowly closing for Johnson.
"When Championship season came, I was going through so much stress.""I prayed about it multiple times, and kept a lot of faith that God will get me through it. Every weakness I had was an opportunity for God to show his strength in my life."
Antwuane Johnson - 2018 McKinney High School graduate
January came and went, then February did too and nothing much was materializing for Johnson. In March, things picked up as he went on an official visit to Texas A&M Corpus Christi (TAMCC).
But, then April came around for the 300H specialist, so did an unforseen and poorly timed injury. How could this be happening? "It was very tough being injured (strained I.T band) around the time of the regional and state championships, Johnson said."
A recovery period was imminent, Johnson was going to have to sit out and heal. What would he do about college? District, area, regionals, and surely his last opportunity to finally qualify to run at state was all in jeopardy. In order for his injury to heal, he wouldn't be able to put much weight or pressure in his leg and would undergo rehab and therapy. "I knew this was my senior year and because I've worked so hard up until this point I did not want it to go to waste."
Johnson was down, but not out just yet. Johnson said, "I prayed about it multiple times, and kept a lot of faith that God will get me through it. Every weakness I had was an opportunity for God to show his strength in my life." Things began to happen In April, he signed a NLOI with (TAMCC)
Signing had to be a huge relief. His future was set and one stress was lifted off of his mind. However, he was still an athlete and there were still more goals he set from the beginning of the season to be accomplished. "When Championship season came, I was going through so much stress," Johnson said. It was April and that is when seasons are extended to the next round or they end. Without being able to train, how would he qualify and advance to the next round?
"My counselor (Former Olympian Melissa Morrison Howard) and my school coach Coach Dorris decided to come up with some pool workouts I could do so that I was able to somewhat stay in shape by keeping the cardio level up without further injuring myself by running."
It worked. At district, he qualified for the finals with his preliminary time of 38.77 and then he ran even faster with his 38.34 in the finals, both times were PRs. At area, he didn't win nor did he run as fast, but he went 38.97 good enough for second place to advance to regionals. At regionals, Johnson, who still had not hit a track or gone over hurdles in practice continued to survive and advance. He ran 38.32 at the Region 1-6A Meet to place second and secure an automatic qualifying spot for the UIL 6A state track and field meet.
Despite being faced with challenges, more and more of Johnson's goals were materializing. "I realized I've met my goal that I have been working so hard for, so it was very fulfilling. I didn't know if I were more excited that I made the state championships or that I was more nervous about realizing I was going to compete with the best athletes in the state on a injury without practicing for my event only pool workout outs and ab work."
"When I qualified for state the feeling I had was in fact indescribable. I was so emotionally happy, it just felt as if a school bus was lifted off my shoulders. Also, it's just the simple fact that realizing all the hard work I've been through had finally paid off and even an injury was not enough to stop me from my success. Because when you keep so much faith and realize God is with you every step of the way, you will know that even when you fail, you still land on success. "
He would eventually compete at the state meet in his event. While he did not medal (finished in 8th place), he did exhibit qualities that athletics teaches and those traits will carry with him to the next level and beyond. He relied on determination, positivity, and most of all, his faith.
Johnson said, "as athletes move through the championship meets, and the end of the high school season; it's indeed a lot of weight to carry at once because everyone is not only after the same goal but every athlete is also looking to perform their best being that it's their last high school performance. Moreover, you began thinking about college, moving on to next level, some athletes still may be going through the recruiting process, and at the same time finishing strong through school."
After state, Johnson wasn't finished with his prep track and field career. He went on to run for Team Texas at the Great Southwest Classic where he finished 6th. He also competed throughout the summer on the USATF circuit, where he finished 6th overall in 53.62.
"Medaling at the USATF JO's indeed meant the world to me especially knowing the high level of competition by running with the best athletes in the country. I figured since I could not necessarily perform my best for school season, I made medaling at the JO's a goal. I didn't just want a medal, I made it a necessity to earn my medal. In addition, it just felt so good to be able to come back healthy and stronger, and to see my times drop again aesthetically."
Track and field can be a trying and challenging thing just as it was this season for Johnson. However, in just a few weeks, he will make the move from McKinney, Texas to Corpus Christi where he will enroll on for the first day of classes on August 27th. "Becoming a D1 college bound athlete on a full ride definitely was a major dream come true. I did everything I could to become the best athlete I can be and now it's only up from here."