Johnson signs to compete in cross-country, track for Corban

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home High School runner Olivia Johnson signed a letter of intent Tuesday, May 3, to compete for Corban College.

Johnson is a three-time district champion for Sweet Home in cross-country and has competed at the state meet four times, finishing seventh as a junior. In track she has been hampered by injuries in the last two years, but this year has been one of the top 3000-meter runners in the 4A division.

She signed the letter flanked by her parents, Michael and Carrie Johnson, Sweet Home Coach Billy Snow and Corban Coach Norm Berney, in a ceremony at Sweet Home High School.

Coach Billy Snow said it was bittersweet to see Johnson leave.

“I’m very happy to see her (sign),” he said. “This is the next step. I’m sorry to lose her but that’s life in high school. It’s been a good run over the last four years.”

Johnson said she visited three schools and “Corban just felt like the best fit.

“I like how the Corban coach really cares about you and not just about getting points,” she said.

Berney said that Johnson is part of an influx of freshmen women who, he said, are the foundation of “a new era” for Corban’s women’s program, which he founded in 2003.

They include Mac High 400-meter runner Emily Childers, who has never run cross-country because she’s focused on high school soccer but won the 4A state championship in the 400 last year. The group also includes Mariah Applegate of Grace Christian High School in Alaska, who is third in the state in the 3200, and Leisha Anderson of Anchorage Christian, who has been injured most of this spring but was one of the top cross-country runners in Alaska last fall, he said.

“We’re building and Olivia is one of our starting points,” he said, adding that the Cascade Collegiate Conference, in which the Warriors compete, is becoming more competitive, with four teams making the NAIA nationals this year and Karlee Coffey of Eastern Oregon placing second in the nation.

“It’s a challenge for us. We have to build now.”

He said he likes what he has seen from Johnson thus far, including her run a few weeks ago at the Meet of Champions, where she placed second the 3000 after reeling in six runners in the final 1,000 meters.

“Watching her at the Meet of Champions, I was very impressed,” he said. “She just kept getting better and better. If she had had two more laps she would have caught the leader. It’s hard to find people who want to do the 5,000 or 10,000.”

Johnson said she prefers distance events “because I cannot run fast.

“Long distance is better because I can establish my pace and catch up with people. I like cross-country because you’re not going in circles. It’s trees and nature.”

She said she wasn’t aiming for a college scholarship when she started running as a high school freshman, taking 51st at the state cross-country meet.

“But I always knew I wanted to keep running after high school,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to get money for college.”