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updated: 6/21/2011 10:52 AM

Star hurdler from Hoffman Estates got his start with a junior high coach

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  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.com May 2011 St. Viator's Justin Johnson, middle, runs in the 100-meter high hurdles during the class 3A boys state track preliminaries in Charleston in May 2011.

      JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.com May 2011 St. Viator's Justin Johnson, middle, runs in the 100-meter high hurdles during the class 3A boys state track preliminaries in Charleston in May 2011.

  • St. Viator's Justin Johnson, left, competes in the Class 2A 110-meter high hurdles during state track finals at O'Brien Field in Charleston in May 2010.

       St. Viator's Justin Johnson, left, competes in the Class 2A 110-meter high hurdles during state track finals at O'Brien Field in Charleston in May 2010.
    PATRICK KUNZER | Staff Photographer

 

Justin Johnson of Hoffman Estates still remembers his track coach at Eisenhower Junior High School in putting him in the high hurdles event at one of his first track and field meets.

Johnson was in seventh grade and all he wanted to do was run.

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"I wasn't sure about it," Johnson said. "But then it was OK. I started to like it -- once I found out I was good."

Was he ever. Johnson's latest accomplishment is a recent pair of first-place finishes in a Midwest Senior Spotlight event in Wisconsin for elite track and field athletes, but he said it all started in junior high school.

By the end of his first season in seventh grade, Johnson was conference champion and he was hooked.

Fast forward five years. He has just wrapped up his senior year at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, where he was a two-time state qualifier at the IHSA state track and field championships.

Johnson medaled at both meets, placing sixth in the 100-meter high hurdles last year and fifth this year at the Class 3A finals, at Eastern Illinois University.

During his senior year, Johnson earned all-conference honors in the East Suburban Catholic Conference in football and last month he was named "athlete of the meet" at the ESCC track and field championships.

Johnson "has had a great run during his last two years in track," said St. Viator athletic director Tim Carlson. "He has set numerous school records and has represented Saint Viator well at both the conference, sectional and state levels. His record of success will be difficult to duplicate."

Johnson hasn't let "senioritis" slow him down. On June 11, he competed at the Senior All State Spotlight Track & Field Meet at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville, where he competed as part of Team Illinois against elite seniors from Wisconsin and Iowa.

Johnson won the 110-meter high hurdles, with a time of 14.01 seconds and he went on to be part of a record-setting Team Illinois performance in the high shuttle hurdle relay.

On Friday, Johnson and his mother, Nicole Tarvin, attended orientation activities at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., where coaches were aware of his medals at the Midwest spotlight event.

"I guess it's a big deal," quipped his mother. "Everyone here knew about it."

Johnson said he chose St. Norbert's, since it offered him the ability to both play football and run track. The Green Knights compete in the Midwest Conference in Division III of the NCAA.

"I had multiple coaches call me," he said. "It seems like a good fit. I'm excited."

His summer will be short, however. Johnson reports back to De Pere on July 12 for football camp as the Green Knights begin to defend their 2010 Midwest Conference championship title.

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