MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Until Andrew Johnson came along, Mankato had yet to have a runner win the conference and section cross country championship in the same season.
And there’s no telling to what the South Dakota State commit could’ve accomplished in the state meet.
Though, his rise to the top meant many setbacks and even more rebounds.
“We’ve had some great runners come through Mankato, both West and East, and to be the first to do that, that’s pretty darn impressive,” head cross country coach Chris Ward said.
“I want to give it 100-percent, no matter what, for myself. It just so happens that running is where I managed to find my groove. It could’ve been in anything, but I really love running and how it’s an outlet for stress for me as well as an outlet for expression,” Johnson said.
The senior started out as a middle-of-the-pack junior varsity runner, then evolved into a runner consistently meters ahead of his competition.
“He was a very normal, high-performing athlete. He performed well, but it wasn’t something that was way above everybody else. He was just excited to be there,” Ward said.
Andrew Johnson: “It definitely wasn’t easy and it definitely didn’t come overnight. It was a lot of optional practice, a lot of running on my own and a lot of listening, not just to what I had to think, but to what my coach had to think. In order to be coached correctly, you have to want to be coached.”
Coach Ward is curious to see how he’ll handle even more adversity.
“I am hopeful that he will get challenged this season, so we can see what happens when he is put in that position. Even if he comes out on the losing end of a challenge, you can still win the day because you responded to it and we want to be able to see that,” Ward said.
The product of Johnson’s work ethic is his accolades and leadership.
“What really pushed me through to that next level was that captainship and that coaching that I received and the comradery from my teammates. It really pushed me to be a better athlete and a better person in general,” Johnson said.
“He showed early signs of frustration when other athletes, ‘Hey, you told me this is what you wanted to achieve and now you’re not putting in the effort.’ And, he wasn’t afraid to call other people out on that... Continuing on, he evolved in his leadership capacity to target some of those athletes and other athletes. He was able to start to find ways to engage them,” Ward said.
“I sympathize with athletes who might have a harder time finding their groove because I remember feeling like that when I was younger. And, that’s something tough to get out of, especially when sometimes people don’t really understand that because they’ve been a varsity athlete their entire time in high school,” Johnson said.
Johnson signed his National Letter of Intent to run division I with the Jackrabbits.
And adds plans to continue competitive running after college.