Western Reserve's Darren Johnson will have an opportunity to raise the bar at the State Track and Field Championships after winning the high-jump title in 2010.
"It actually adds pressure, because I've got a bulls-eye on my back," Johnson said. "Everybody's shooting for it. It's a lot of pressure on me just to repeat, to do it again."
This year, however, he's not just competing in the high jump. Johnson qualified for the state meet in four events, two track and two field. This Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Johnson will compete in the high jump, the long jump and the 200- and 400-meter dashes.
In 2010, Johnson took the Division II state high jump title with a leap of 6 feet, 6 inches, good enough to win in bad weather conditions at the meet. He has improved as a high jumper since then, he said.
"I think that this year I'm a stronger jumper," Johnson said. "I know more of my strengths, what they are. I've worked a lot on my approach. I'm getting a lot better with that. I'm waiting for it all to come together."
Johnson holds the top seed heading into the state meet, where he will jump last in the 16-person field. His jump at the regional meet of 6-6 was the best mark in Division II around the state by an inch.
He is peaking at the right time, too: He set personal records in three of his four events during the district and regional meets this season.
His leap of 6-9 at districts was the best in the meet by five inches, as well as his own high mark. Johnson also set a personal record in the long jump at the district meet with a jump of 22-8 1/4. His regional finals time in the 400-meter dash (49.24 seconds) was also a personal record, giving him the No. 2 seed overall at the state tournament and the best time in his heat.
Read more of this story and on the Division II competition in Thursday's Register; Find features on Division I and Division III athletes in Friday's Register.
Follow the State Track & Field Championships on Friday and Saturday at Fandy.com.