Johnson hopes to continue running
It's still there -- that much Casey Johnson is sure of.
The unquenchable drive that made Johnson one of De Soto High School's best track and cross country athletes for four years hasn't been lost despite the decidedly rough ride Johnson has endured since graduating from De Soto in May 2005.
It's been tested, though.
Johnson first left De Soto for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., but he realized after his late-summer boot camp that his ultimate goals would be difficult to achieve. The wealth of scholarship offers he had considered through his senior prep season had dried up after he announced his original decision to head to the academy, and he opted to enroll at Kansas State University without a track scholarship.
A state champion in the 1,600- and 800-meter runs as a senior, Johnson wasn't ready to drop the sport he loved just because he took a detour. Getting back on the track wouldn't prove so easy, however. Johnson joined the Wildcat track team, but was slowed all season by tendonitis that caused swelling in his Achilles tendon and ran in just four track meets, two indoor and two outdoor.
"The hardest thing for me was getting injured," he said. "I didn't get injured all through high school. It started to flare up a little in my senior season of cross country, but it didn't keep me out of any workouts. I hope it doesn't keep coming back, but I'm not sure."
The former De Soto standout now faces a tough set of questions for the second time in less than a year. Once a Wildcat hero in De Soto, does he have what it takes -- desire included -- to become a Wildcat hero of a different shade?
That may depend on the tendon, he said.
"I'm thinking about it," Johnson said when asked what he planned for the next school year. "If my Achilles flares up again, I'll really have to think about it."
If Johnson does opt to continue competing, he'll need to hit the ground at full speed and he won't have long to get back in top form. He is considering joining the K-State cross country team and could make his decision after he meets with the program's coach, Michael Smith.
He ran only a handful of races as a freshman, competing in the 800- and 1,000-meter runs in indoor track and the 800 and 1,500 in outdoor, and said he never found the groove in which he was so comfortable in high school.
"I love being at the races. I went to the KU Relays and I was competitive," he said. "I ran and took the lead near the end, but I didn't have the same kick I had in high school."
The continued problems with his tendon kept him from regular workouts, and he spent much of his spring exercising in a pool or on a bike. Though he has gotten back on his feet this summer, he has to mix several workouts a week in with a full-time summer job.
If he opts out of cross country, Johnson said he'll consider track in the second semester, but even if that doesn't work, he won't stop running.
"Even if I can't keep doing it collegiately, I'll keep doing it on my own," he said. "Maybe I'll do longer races like five (kilometer runs) and 10Ks and marathons. I hope I keep it up all through college."