For a softball player, Johnson is a great sprinter

Posted: May 25, 2012

Annie Johnson let out a sigh.

"Yup," she said. "I get asked about this a million times a day."

Johnson holds the Shawnee girls' track record in five sprint events, all of which were set this spring.

She enters Friday's South Jersey Group 4 meet all but assured of qualifying for a busy day at the state championships.

In just her second year of running spring track, the senior just might be scratching the surface of her potential.

And almost everyone who watches her compete agrees: She's destined for a special college career - playing softball.

Softball?

"People always ask me whether I'm going to keep running, whether I'm going to miss it," said Johnson, who continues to play softball in the summer and has committed to play the outfield for the University of Albany.

"And, yes, I think I'm going to miss track a lot. I definitely don't regret playing softball, and that's what I'm going to do in college. But I know I'm going to miss running track."

The image of Johnson in a college softball uniform is still a tad hard to justify for Shawnee track coach Beth Ritter, who called Johnson "the fastest sprinter who has ever walked through the halls of Shawnee High School."

But it just makes these final weeks of the season that much more special for Johnson.

"I have to make the most of it," she said.

The five records Johnson has broken or helped break this season are in the 100-meter dash (11.7 seconds), 200 (24.9), 4x400 relay (3 minutes, 55.35 seconds), distance medley relay (12:18.29), and the 4x100 (50.25).

"And I'm exactly a second off of the 400 record, which is 55.4," said Johnson, who will compete in the 100, 200, 400, and possibly the 4x400 this weekend at Egg Harbor Township. "Friday might be the last time I ever get to run an open 400. So it's my last shot at it and it's definitely something I'm aiming for."

Even though Ritter and Johnson readily admit that the 400 isn't her favorite race, Ritter said she's not surprised by any level of success Johnson achieves.

"Annie is a natural talent," Ritter said. "She's hardworking. She's very, very competitive. And you can tell she loves running track."

Johnson came to the sport on the recommendation of her softball coach, who suggested track as a way to gain speed.

"When she first came out, she knocked my socks off," Ritter said. "She is absolutely explosive out of the blocks. She's strong, powerful, she has the desire to win - it's like an amazing concoction for success."

At first, that success caught Johnson off guard.

"It was really a shock to me when I realized I could actually compete with some of the top runners," she said. "But it was a great feeling for me to know that I could excel at track as well as softball."

As hard as it is for some to believe, this is likely the home stretch for Johnson in a sport she has taken by storm.

She'll be nervous, of course. But it's a feeling that has never seemed to bother her in the past.

"Once I get to the line, most of the nervousness goes away," she said. "When I get on the line, my mind goes blank and I just focus on what I need to do."


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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