Growing up, track and field wasn’t something in the cards for Spectrum’s Hailey Johnson until one of her best friends pushed her to join in ninth grade.
“I suggested to Hailey that we should join and we both laughed about how running sounded miserable. We hated the mile in gym,” said Alicia Moening, Johnson’s teammate and friend who currently competes in pole vault, hurdles and discus for the Sting. “I told her we should do track to get ripped for the summer and it’s an excuse to see me, of course.”
They joined and it’s safe to say it’s worked out.
“Interestingly enough, we found we both were pretty decent at track. Her more on the running side and me more on the field side,” Moening said, noting she saw Johnson develop a strong passion for running in the process. “At first, she started out as an average Joe runner, but after two years, we both decided to join a gym membership and train during fall and winter for track. Obviously, her hard work and dedication paid off immensely as she now has many school records and places high at competitive meets.”
Indeed, Johnson, who is now a senior captain for the Spectrum track team, has put herself on top of the school leaderboard in multiple events, including recently breaking the 100 and 200 meter dash records. She also holds the school’s 400 m dash record and has been a part of the school’s record-breaking 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
Johnson broke the 100 record with a time of 12.88 seconds in a first-place finish at the Big Lake Invitational on April 25. She broke the 200 record a week earlier in a second-place finish at the Annandale Invitational, clocking in with a time of 27.06 seconds, and then topped that mark at the Section 4A True Team meet on May 7 with a second-place time of 26.60. She’s also found tremendous success with her relay teams this season and in the 400 m dash; she recently took first place at the Princeton Invitational in the 400 on May 2.
Johnson said she doesn’t regularly compete in the 100 and 200 — as she’s primarily a mid-distance runner — but she appreciated the opportunity to showcase herself in the events and come away with a couple more school records.
“It felt really good, especially with the 100. I was able to pull out front and take first in that race so that was really cool to have that experience because it’s not something I usually get to do,” Johnson said.
At the same time, breaking her fifth and sixth school records was quite humbling, as she never would have pictured herself breaking those records in the first place. Not to mention, her 100 and 200 times currently place her in the top five in the state (Class A).
“It’s pretty cool. I wasn’t really expecting to do that, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do it. It’s been a nice surprise,” she said.
While she may never have imagined accomplishing as much as she has, Johnson admitted she started noticing her potential in the sport during her sophomore season when her 4x100, 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams qualified for the Section 5A meet, and that pushed her to train harder for her junior season, ultimately anchoring the Sting’s 4x800 meter relay team to a 12th-place finish at state.
She added her growth this season has been a result of more hard work over the offseason, which included joining the Spectrum cross-country team last fall. She said that’s improved her mental toughness and endurance.
“Definitely cross-country, running and lifting over the winter has been big for me, but also confidence in knowing that I have the ability to be successful,” Johnson said about the key to her success this season.
Johnson said she hopes to build on her success through the midway point of the season and reach her second straight state tournament in June, saying it’d be quite rewarding to make it in an individual event. That being said, she’s most concerned about continuing to improve her times and leading her team to a third straight conference title.
Sting head coach Rick Peterson said no matter how the rest of the season plays out, Johnson has already made her mark on the program.
“She is the top sprinter to come out of Spectrum and has shown that she can also extend the length of her races to the middle distances, which has greatly helped our relay teams,” Peterson said. “She is a coach’s dream athlete. She works hard, has a positive attitude, and is a great role model to the younger track athletes.”
As a result of everything she’s accomplished, Johnson’s athletic career will continue on in college, as she’ll join the College of St. Benedict’s track and field and cross-country teams next year.
Add that to the list of things she never would have expected to happen, either.
“If I would have asked myself in ninth grade if I would have been looking myself as a collegiate athlete, the answer would have been no way,” she said. “So I’m excited about it.”