By MARINA WATERS
It will be a month on Thursday since Daniel Boone High School senior runner Daniel Johnson signed to continue his athletic career at Lincoln Memorial University. But on the track at Boone on a blazing hot, May afternoon, Johnson is still celebrating the day he officially committed to run in college and all that’s ahead for the Boone Blazer.
“It was just a day to celebrate and move on to the next accomplishment in my life,” Johnson said, thinking back to signing day. “I’m really looking forward to the next four years of being a Rail Splitter.”
Johnson is a two-time all-conference and a two-time all-region runner who recently won the Dale Jarrett Scholarship that is awarded to a Daniel Boone student athlete each year. But apart from Johnson’s accolades, Boone track and cross country coach Len Jeffers said he’s also an athlete who has come a long way since his start at Daniel Boone.
“It’s been great,” Jeffers said. “Daniel’s been here for three years. He transferred in the summer before his sophomore year so we’ve only had him for three years, but he’s made a tremendous amount of progress.”
Most signees claim their childhood dreams as the reason for wanting to continue their athletic career at the collegiate level, but for the senior runner, it’s that Daniel Boone pride that made him want to push forward and represent the Trailblazers at the next level.
“Keeping the Boone legacy (made him want to run in college). Having high school seniors running in college, that’s what everybody’s been doing,” Johnson said. “I wanted to keep the Boone legacy and show that it’s strong.”
Along with that legacy comes a list of teammates that have both been by his side through his high school career and also inspired him to seek a college program with a strong team comradery.
“The point of me wanting to go to college was the team atmosphere. That was probably the biggest thing for me,” Johnson explained. “I didn’t want to be too far away so I could still see some of my old teammates and still be really close to the team at LMU. They do a lot of stuff up there. It’s really team-oriented.”
But before he made the decision to head to Harrogate, Tennessee and join the LMU squad, Johnson had a list of obstacles he had to overcome throughout his high school journey such as staying healthy throughout the season.
“This entire senior year, through cross country, track and indoor season, it was kind of like trying to battle through the sickness,” Johnson said. “There would be a week or two where I would just feel not really good for training but then I’d still keep going. Then battling with costochondritis and then having the flu in the winter. After I got back from that, everything just kept rolling.”
Boone’s track season is just about to wrap up as the team gears up for state, but for Johnson, who is already looking ahead at training for his college career, maintaining that work ethic is at the top of his list.
“I had a really good season this year. I was mainly focusing on the 400 and 800 group,” Johnson said. I had some pretty good workouts, had some really good races. And we were just trying to use that as our stepping stone to try to get the speed up for college.”
Though Johnson is nearly finished with his individual season, he’s also ready to keep rolling on his conditioning and the new training techniques at LMU that sparked his interest in the program—and an interest in potentially becoming a coach.
“The strength training program was really important. It really caught my eye because with the strength training, they usually focus on the muscles and joints that runners don’t usually use during races and the hip flexibility and all that,” Johnson said. “I was wanting to use those techniques to maybe coach in high school.”
Already gearing up for his new summer workouts, Johnson is looking ahead while also realizing how connected he is to his Trailblazer team mates and his soon-to-be alma mater.
“There are some days,” Johnson said, speaking on how grueling the sport could be at times. “But then there are some days like hanging out with your teammates and going out on a run and getting the joke and getting to laugh and make some memories.
“That’s what I’ll miss mostly. But I get to make some new memories going to LMU. And I’m really excited about that.”