Anthony Johnson’s strategy left him a few steps short of a regional title.
The Newark senior, however, showed no panic. A week later, nobody was better.
Johnson ran a time of 1:51.58 on Saturday to win the 800 during the Division I state meet at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Johnson carried the state’s top time in the event much of the season, and he emphatically proved to be the best in the season’s final meet.
“It is a little scary, but I definitely do run better when I try to go out fast,” Johnson said. “I knew who I was supposed to be worried about, and I knew what to do. Keeping it up is what the hard part was.”
Johnson, who previously in his career was a state placer in the 300 hurdles and the 400, set his sights on the 800 after shattering the school record at midseason. Johnson’s only recent defeat came in the regional to Westerville North’s Jacob Dumford.
Johnson got his revenge. Running the same way with reckless abandon, he took an early lead. This time, Johnson did not allow it to be taken from him. The top four finishers were from central Ohio.
“My first lap was exactly what I wanted it to be,” Johnson said. “I had to keep it going and going and make sure those 200 workouts worked out in practice.”
Reynoldsburg’s Dominik Seitzer finished second in 1:52.49. Dumford, who won the 1,600 earlier, was third in 1:52.85 and Lancaster’s Stephen Sparks fourth in 1:53.12. Johnson lowered his regional time by a second. That was the difference.
“At regionals, Anthony went two seconds slower on the first lap, and (Dumford) went one second faster. He is a kicker, and that was the difference,” Newark coach Randy Noftz said. “(On Saturday), Anthony buried him early. He really held on the second lap and had a spurt at the end.”
Johnson placed fifth in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore, and he matched it with a fifth in the 400 in 2012. Consideration was given to Johnson making another attempt at the 400 title.
Johnson, however, ran 1:52.5 in a dual meet in late April, pushing the 800 to the forefront. His 1:50.92 at the district still is the state’s fastest time this season.
Johnson just did not want another fifth-place medal at the state.
“Fifth was definitely my stay-away,” Johnson said. “If I had gotten fourth, I would have been happy anyway, so as long as it was not fifth.”
He did far more than that.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all (at the beginning of the season),” Johnson said. “I didn’t even know the 800 would be my thing.”