Faces In The Crowd: Jonathan Johnson
June 19, 2007
By Wes Skipwith, Texas Tech Athletic Media Relations
Former Texas Tech track star Jonathan Johnson is quickly becoming America's next hope for a medal in the 800m at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Johnson ran track for the Red Raiders from 2002-2005. During his time in Lubbock, the Abilene native established himself as the greatest male track athlete Tech has ever known. He was named All-American nine times and received 16 all-conference awards including four Big 12 Championships. In 2004, Johnson became Tech's only male national champion and, after finishing first in the 800m at the Olympic Trials with a personal and school record of 1:44.77, he became Tech's only male Olympian. His time at the trials earned him a number one ranking in the United States by Track and Field News and was the fastest time by an American that year. He ended up finishing eighth in the semifinals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
"The experience (at the Olympics) made me grow up real quickly," Johnson said. "You have the whole world looking at you. It's hard to express the actual feeling because it means so much because you are representing the whole U.S. and you're representing everything you ever worked for and ever stood for. For me, I represented my family, friends, school, my fans, and all of the people who always have been by my side. There are not any words that can explain the feeling of competing in the Olympics; you just have to experience it to understand." In 2005, he helped lead the Red Raiders to the Big 12 Outdoor Championship, the first track and field team title for Texas Tech. Johnson said all of his individual accomplishments he earned while at Texas Tech were very special to him but what he remembers the most was what his teammates and he accomplished.
"If I had to pick the moment at Tech that meant the most to me, it would be winning the Big 12 championship as a team," he said. "To be a part of the first team Big 12 Championship it was just that more special to me because it was a team effort and that is what we always worked towards. When I first went to Tech, no body ever gave us a chance. But coaches, faculty and everyone around Tech loved and supported us. Now Texas Tech is on the national scene. For me to take part in that and be apart of Tech's history, it has meant a lot to me"
In 2006, Johnson began his professional track career after signing with Team Reebok. In his first professional track season last year, he finished with a No. 5 ranking in the United States in the 800m by T&FN. Johnson is still with Team Reebok and currently resides near Orlando where he is training for the upcoming U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June. If he makes the national team there then he will go on to the World Championships in August. Johnson, who is currently ranked 46th in the world in the 800m, also hopes to crack the top 10 before the year is over.
"I believe I can make the finals at the World Championships and I believe I can be in contention to win a medal. In order to move up in ranking, I have to get in the right races and face the right competition. That is my main goal this year."
If Johnson can accomplish all of these goals then he will be in a good position when the 2008 Summer Olympics come around. He said his ultimate goal for his career would be to win a medal at the Olympics and everything he does is geared towards that.
"That is something that hasn't been done in a while for an American in the 800m. For me to do that would be something special and I'm really going to work hard to do that. I'm definitely on the right track. I'm as focused as I have ever been. There are only three medalists at the Olympic Games, so that's three out of the whole world. I know that I have to take care of business and I have to do everything that I can right now and put the work in to be right where I want to be."
Johnson is currently single and spends all most all of his free time in training. He said he still keeps in touch with his former Tech track coach Wes Kittley.
"Me and Coach Kittley have a great relationship," Johnson said. "If there is anything that he can do for me he'll do it, if there is anything that I can do for him then I will do it. I talk to coach a lot and some time he'll give me advice on some things."
Johnson said he wants to continue running professionally for as long as he can. He said if he keeps devoting all of his time to training and running, he sees himself only getting better from here on out.
"As long as I'm happy doing this sport, as long as I'm injury free and as long as things are working in my favor, I see myself competing for a very long time," Johnson said. "I feel like I have another eight to 10 years. In my event, the older you get the stronger you get. I haven't really even reached my peak yet. I still have a few years."
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