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Western's Darren Johnson takes home high-jump gold, again

AnthonyMoujaes • Jun 4, 2011 at 11:57 PM

Barry Pickens came over to Darren Johnson in between jumps and let the senior know what he had to do.

It was time to make a statement, the Western Reserve track coach told Johnson.

A year after winning a Division II state championship in the high jump, Johnson made his statement by wrapping up back-to-back titles Saturday at the State Track and Field Championships.

Johnson bettered his winning 6-foot 6-inch height from a year ago by two inches, clearing 6-8 on his way to the top spot again.

"It's a great feeling. I'm very fortunate to be on top of the platform again," Johnson said after collecting his first-place medal. "It was rough getting here, but I stayed focused and pulled it out."

Johnson collected two other medals later in the afternoon, one for a second-place finish in the 400 dash (48.97) and another for finishing seventh in the 200 (22.96).

"I didn't run my best in the 200 meter. The 400 took a lot out of me, so the 200 was a little rough," Johnson said. "In the 400, I ran one my best times. I couldn't ask for more. I just couldn't catch that guy for first. So it's a little disappointing."

That guy in the 400 was Versaille's Jamie Miller, and his time was a 48.07. Miller got ahead of the pack early and maintained the lead to win.

"I noticed (his start), but I figured he'd die. I usually kick it around the 200. My legs -- I didn't have enough in me," Johnson said.

Johnson characterized the weekend as successful for defending his high jump title, but disappointing for wanting to win the 400 and a better time in the 200.

Johnson came into the weekend with a regional seed of 6-6, an inch better than any of his competitors, in the high jump. Upper Sandusky's Evan Logsdon, who was second at 6-6, topped his regional seed of 6-4.

"It's a target on the back," Johnson said of his title defense. "Everybody's shooting for it and everybody wants it. You just have to stay within yourself and go out and get it."

There were still seven competitors remaining when the bar was raised to 6-6, but that's where the field starting thinning. Only he and Logsdon made it over the bar to stay alive.

"Everybody's gotten better. I'm not the only one who's worked in the offseason. Everybody's come out and gotten better and is jumping a lot higher," he said.

While waiting for one leap, Johnson wore a weighted vest as he warmed up. When he took it off, and the highlighter-yellow shirt he wore beneath it, the senior must have felt light as a feather as he cleared 6-6 with ease.

Johnson attempted one final jump to clear 6-10, which would have set a school record, but was unable to clear to bar. "Six-10 has been a block for me all year. I haven't been able to get over it," he said.

In the long jump on Friday, Johnson didn't qualify for the finals and said he was down after the event, but felt his spirits would be up after the high jump.

Were they ever.

"Last year was my first one and it meant a lot. It felt great to come out and repeat," said Johnson, who didn't run track until his sophomore year.

The two-time champ said he was never sure he could qualify for the state meet in four events, let alone win the high jump twice.

He made his statement.

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