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Track & field athlete of year: Kyra Johnson

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A beaming smile conceals the competitive fire that carried Kyra Johnson into the elite of California high school track the past two seasons.

Winning a section title in the 300 low hurdles and narrowly missing the state meet in the 100 high hurdles highlighted a stellar senior season at Piner High.

Bound for Fresno State on a scholarship, Johnson is the 2012 Empire Girls Track Athlete of the Year.

“This year was all about getting faster,” Johnson said. “Now I want to see what I can do in college with everything they offer.”

Surrounded by fast teammates in an improving Fresno State track program, Johnson should make an early impact for the Bulldogs.

“She’s very competitive, which will suit her well in college,” said Piner coach Luis Rosales. “I think she’ll do pretty good.”

Johnson’s zeal to improve was evident coming off a North Coast Section runner-up finish and state finals appearance in the 300 hurdles as a junior.

To become a stronger runner both in mind and body Johnson ran cross country for the first time as a senior, dropping volleyball.

Training on trails over long distances in addition to speed work was challenging and rewarding. She won the North Bay League title and qualified out of NCS in Division 3 for the state meet.

“Cross country was really good for my body. I got mentally tough. I felt I could run for days,” she said. “After that running 300 on the track seemed so easy.”

Opening her senior track campaign in midseason form, Johnson surprised even herself.

Taking the Stanford Invitational prep title in the 400 hurdles (college distance) was the first of many clips in Johnson’s senior highlight reel.

“I never thought I could win there,” she said.

Finding more speed came from competing in the 100 hurdles. Gliding over higher hurdles demanded finer form that allowed Johnson to stretch out even more over the longer distance.

“Every meet was faster and faster. That’s what you want,” Rosales said.

A double-double in the hurdles followed at the NBL and Redwood Empire finals.

“Running the 100 had me stoked. I was trying to get to state in two events,” Johnson said.

Making her senior season even more remarkable, Johnson also added the long jump. She set a Piner school record.

The momentum of a memorable year carried into the NCS Meet of Champions, in Berkeley. Competing in both hurdles over two days of heats and finals is demanding, but Johnson was up to the task.

Early on the meet’s final day Johnson ran well to finish fifth in the 100 hurdles final — one place shy of qualifying for the state meet.

“Running that event and running it fast, that helped her confidence so much,” Rosales said.

Determined to take the podium top spot in the 300 hurdles, Johnson won the final by nearly a second. A second-place finish as a junior was motivation.

“I always wanted to win NCS. That was kind of emotional,” Johnson said.

But a return to the state finals would not follow. Jumping an early hurdle in her heat, Johnson lost enough time to finish 11th overall at the CIF meet in Clovis.

Leaving Piner with the Empire’s second-best all-time mark in the 300 hurdles and the region’s fifth-best 100 hurdles time gives Johnson confidence she can be competitive in college.

“It just feels right,” Johnson said. “I just have to stay strong and focused.”


GIRLS 2012 ALL-EMPIRE TRACK & FIELD

Athlete of the Year
Kyra Johnson
Piner, senior

FIRST TEAM

Siobhan Anderson
Maria Carrillo, senior

Maria Barragan
Healdsburg, junior

Morgan Bertsch
Santa Rosa, sophomore

Kathleen Durand
Maria Carrillo, junior

Sadia Ibrahim
Santa Rosa, junior

Dezirae Johnson
Piner, senior

Nicole Lane
El Molino, senior

Laurel Sheppard
Maria Carrillo, junior

Danielle Steffen
Petaluma, senior

Darci Whyte
Santa Rosa, sophomore

SECOND TEAM

Courtney Accurso
Casa Grande, sophomore

Nicole Beecham
Casa Grande, senior

Devon Brook
Windsor, senior

Jackie Chalmers
Montgomery, junior

Ashley Moffett
Casa Grande, junior

Andrea Natoli
Maria Carrillo, freshman

Nicole Purter
Windsor, junior

Devyn Ruiz
Healdsburg, junior

Allison Scranton
Petaluma, freshman

Courtney Tuck
Petaluma, junior

 

COACH OF THE YEAR

Lars Ewing
Clear Lake, CMC Champions