It all began with a triangular meet in late April at Zanesville.
Anthony Johnson had been going back and forth between the 400 and 800 meters as a specialty.
“Coach (Randy) Noftz told me go for the record in the 800 that day, and I did better than everyone thought I would,” the Newark senior said in typical understatement.
He ran a school record 1:52.5 and was just getting started.
Johnson followed that with a 1:50.92 at the Division I district — which wound up being best in the state all season — then came back with a 1:51.58 to win the state title by almost a second.
After fifth-place state finishes in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore and the 400 in 2012, Johnson repeats at The Advocate’s Boys Runner of the Year.
“All I’ve done up until now, made it worth it,” he said of the state title. “I believed I could be a state champion, but never thought about it too often.”
Johnson averaged 40 to 50 miles on training weeks and also competed in cross country. He also earned the Eagle Scout award earlier this year.
“It helped that he wasn’t by himself at the state meet. He had his teammates with him on the 3,200 relay,” Noftz said. “He went in with a good attitude, decided he wanted to be better than fifth and tried to win it. If someone ran in the 1:51s or 1:50s and beat him, so be it.”
They actually didn’t decide on targeting the 800 until the week of the district, Noftz said, because Johnson had 47-second potential in the 400.
“Even at the OCC-Ohio meet, we weren’t sure,” Noftz said.
It turned out to be a good decision. Johnson ran his brilliant time at the district before finishing second to Westerville North star Jacob Dumford at the regional. Dumford went on to set a stadium record in winning the state in the 1,600 and placing third in the 800.
“Finishing second to Dumford was not detrimental to my confidence,” Johnson said. “Running against those guys made me go faster and faster.”
Those guys from the Central District took the top four 800 places at the state meet.
“When he dropped his time from 1:52 to 1:50 at the district, he said: ‘I’m not afraid of those guys,'” Noftz said.
One of those guys, Reynoldsburg’s Dominik Seitzer, finished second to Johnson at the state and will be joining him to run at Ohio State. Johnson had been headed to Miami (Ohio), but his success and times drew the attention of the Buckeyes. He’ll concentrate on the 600 indoors and the 800 outdoors.
“He’s getting a partial scholarship, but academics come first for him,” Noftz said. “He had four or five offers for full rides, but they didn’t have the computer engineering degree he wants.”
Johnson said he and Seitzer definitely will push each other at OSU.
“We’re going to get better and better,” he said. “I’m excited to have him as a teammate.”
He’s in Fort Wayne, Ind. today for the Midwest Meet of Champions, competing against the best from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
“It’s just another obstacle to see where I stand,” Johnson said.
Noftz will be interested to see where he stands after four years of top-notch coaching and training at Ohio State.
“At the state meet, he ran 52 seconds on the first lap and was at 78 seconds through 600 meters,” Noftz said. “If he keeps up that pace for the last 200, he runs a 1:44 which is an Olympic time.
“Once he gets stronger in college and runs for four years, he could be in the Olympics.”