Johnson blazes in 300 hurdles

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CLOVIS — A funny thing happened to Kyra Johnson’s one-day trip to the Central Valley: It got extended another day.

In a performance that stunned Johnson far more than her coach, the Piner junior shattered her personal-best mark and posted the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the 300-meter hurdles Friday night at the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High School.

“This is so weird,” Johnson said as she stepped off the track. “Is this real life?”

Believe it, Kyra.

Johnson, seeded 14th in her first trip to state, qualified for Saturday’s nine-person finals with room to spare. Her time of 43.48 seconds lopped .57 seconds off her previous best, which was established at last week’s Meet of Champions.

In fact, Johnson has established a personal record the past three times she’s stepped on the track in the past week, lowering her time by 1.32 seconds in the process and becoming the first Empire girl since 1996 to reach the state finals in the 300 hurdles.

Piner coach Luis Rosales could see Friday’s breakthrough coming. Prior to the race, he told Johnson she could a run a 43.5.

Johnson’s reaction? Laughter.

“I told him if I run a 43.9,” Johnson said, “that life would be perfect.”

To see complete state meet results, please click on this link.

Johnson was joined by Petaluma sophomore high jumper Courtney Tuck in today’s finals. Tuck, one of 12 girls to advance by clearing 5 feet, 4 inches, became the third girl in Empire history to reach the state finals in the event.

After reaching state as a freshman, Tuck conceded this year’s appearance is filled with more pressure. Tuck, who jumped in anonymity and didn’t reach the finals last year, entered Friday tied with seven others for the sixth-highest jump in the state this season at 5-7.

Tuck missed her first attempt at 5-4 while battling a few butterflies.

“I was feeling a little pressure,” Tuck said. “But I also knew I could do it because I’d done it before.”

In contrast, Johnson hadn’t come close to the time she ran Friday.

And she didn’t realize she was in the midst of a memorable performance until she crossed the finish line and looked at the JumboTron at Buchanan High. Johnson, running in the second of four heats, finished second in her heat to Gianna Woodruff of St. Mary’s Academy, who has the state’s sixth-fastest time this season.

“I actually thought I was going slow,” Johnson said. “I saw the girl ahead of me and was thinking ‘Whoa, she’s really fast.’ Then I looked up and saw my time and thought ‘Really?’”

Believe it, Kyra.

NOTES

Healdsburg senior Gary Randolph finished 15th in the discus with a throw of 157-11, improving his personal-best by 27 inches.

Petaluma junior Danielle Steffen, in her second season pole vaulting, finished tied for 13th in the event. Steffen has the second-highest vault in Empire history (11-9).

Santa Rosa sophomore Sadia Ibrahim placed 15th in the 800 meters, Fort Bragg senior Caleb Cunha finished 17th in the 300 hurdles and Maria Carrillo sophomore Kathleen Durand was 20th in the discus.

Piner junior Luis Luna and Petaluma senior Forrest Shaffer will run in the finals of the 3,200 meters Saturday night.

You can reach Staff Writer Eric Branch at eric.branch@pressdemocrat.com.