Chasing dreams

Joey Kirk (The University Daily)

Some children dream about becoming fire fighters, doctors and
astronauts. Others, like junior Jonathon Johnson, had different
aspirations, and he is now getting to chase his dream,


Since he was a young runner growing up in Abilene, Johnson said
he had watched the Olympic trials for the United States team every
year. In the upcoming days, Johnson will not be in front of a
television to catch the action because he will be a part of it,
trying to make one of the top three spots in the men’s 800-meter


“I’ve always dreamed of being in the Olympics, and I’ve always
watched the trials, and now I’m in them,” he said. “If you would
have told me when I was young that I would be where I am today, I
would say you were joking or lying to me.”


After almost a full year of running in events, winning medal
after medal, Johnson gets the chance to go for the ultimate prize:
a trip to Athens and an opportunity to represent his country with
pride and speed. He took the first-place finish at the NCAA track
and field championships, winning with an overall time of 1:46.39.
But Johnson said that was expected of him.


“People kept telling me that I would finish No. 1, but I didn’t
look at it that way,” he said. “I couldn’t let the pressure get to
me, and the same goes for this. If I see myself as No. 1 all the
time, I have nothing to strive for.”


Whether he ends up first, second or third, one of those spots
will earn Johnson the dream of a lifetime. He said he will not be
the only one looking at it that way either.


“It’s the Olympic trials. Everything is on the line,” he said.
“Everybody’s gonna be looking for their best performance, and
winning will not come easy.”


But Tech head coach Wes Kittley has overwhelming faith in
Johnson and the rest of the team’s abilities.


“This is the climax to a long and great year,” he said. “It
really sums up what they’ve done all year long, and it gives us the
chance to show off our rising program.”


With the chances of Tech’s first track and field Olympians in
the midst, Kittley said everything has not hit him yet.


“I know everybody’s chances are great, especially (Johnson’s),”
he said. “It still hasn’t soaked in that we could be on the verge
of having our first Olympic qualifiers in this program.”


Although most of the Raiders will be competing in sprints for
the trials in California, Kittley said the training has been more
of a marathon.


“The entire season has been a marathon for us,” he said. “We
began in August with fall track, and we’re just about to finish up
with the Olympic trials.”


But the training has helped Johnson unbelievably, he said,
especially with the help of Kittley.


“It’s been a crazy and the longest season ever,” Johnson said.
“Coach Kittley has been a big supporter through the entire time,
and he tries to keep the pressure low key and motivates me to


Johnson is one of several Texas Tech track and field competitors
traveling to Sacramento, Calif. to try out for the 2004 U.S. Summer
Olympic team. Other Red Raiders trying out include junior sprinter
Tyree Gailes for the men’s 100-meter run, senior discus thrower
Jason Young and junior sprinter Licretia Sibley for the women’s
400-meter run.


The events will be broadcasted on television, alternating
between NBC and the USA Network throughout the eight-day trial
period. Johnson will race tonight, Saturday and during the finals
on Monday.


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