breaking news

Greg Kelley released from jail on bond in child sex assault case

No track, no problem for Class 2A Italy’s Kortnei Johnson, now at LSU


LSU sprinter Kortnei Johnson scorched the Myers Stadium track on Friday like it was home sweet home.

In a sense, it almost is.

The University of Texas’ track was practically a home track for the Lady Tigers’ sophomore when she was in high school. That’s because, well, Italy High School didn’t have a track.

“We just ran on grass and sometimes cement,” Johnson said Friday after her productive preliminary races at the Texas Relays. “All of our meets were away meets.”

Consequently, the majority of Johnson’s most cherished track memories have occurred in Austin, which is about 150 miles south of Italy, a town of about 1,800. In fact, the medals she won at the Class 2A state high school championships at Myers — seven of them gold — hang from a wall in her apartment in Baton Rouge.

“People always wonder why I have those medals up there,” she said. “I tell them those are how I got to LSU. Those are where my success came from.”

Johnson added two more entries Friday to her Myers memory bank.

She ran the second leg on LSU’s 400-meter relay that posted the event’s fastest preliminary time of 43.25 seconds. Then she came back to set a personal best in the 100 with a wind-legal time of 11.13 that obliterated her previous legal best of 11.27 set last year as a freshman.

As impressive as those times are, they won’t supplant the top memories Johnson has of this track. Those came at the state meet her senior year when she posted what were then her career bests in the 100 (11.26) and 200 (23.39), both aided by significant tailwinds.

“After that, I just fell on the track,” she said. “I was in tears, but I was so excited.”

Despite all her memories in the Texas capital, Johnson elected to travel east across the state line and sign with the Lady Tigers, a perennial national collegiate power. She said she had offers from many elite programs including Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oregon, USC and Kansas.

But Johnson said she always had a fascination with LSU, which intensified after she became serious about track at the age of 15.

“I always wanted to go there since I was a little girl,” she said. “When I started running, I found how exactly how good they are, and all the tradition they have. I just felt at home when I visited there.”

The LSU coaches couldn’t say the same when they made a recruiting trip to see Johnson in Italy. Coach Dennis Shaver said he was aware of the school’s lack of a track, but …

“It doesn’t really register until you see it with your own eyes,” he said.

Despite Johnson’s lack of training facilities in her hometown, Shaver said she arrived in college with a good grasp of technical fundamentals.

“The big thing was just doing a lot of acceleration work,” he said. “She needed training on coming out of the blocks.”

Johnson’s obviously learning, and Friday’s showing indicates she’s on the verge of moving into a new plateau of her development. But she won’t forget her unique past and doesn’t want to.

“It’s very strange,” she said. “When I have these conversations with people about where I came from, they really can’t relate. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did you do it?’

“I wasn’t going to let up just because I didn’t have a track. I wanted to get somewhere. I wanted to be able to tell a story about where I came from and how I am where I am today.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Triplets of the Big 12: West Virginia
Triplets of the Big 12: West Virginia

We’re taking a tour of the top quarterback, running back and wide receiver of each Big 12 team. Today’s triplets: West Virginia. ((We’ve already done Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.) QB: Will Grier (2016 — did...
Daily Longhorn football history: The 2004 season
Daily Longhorn football history: The 2004 season

The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season.  Photo of Sept. 2004 Sports Illustrated On Campus cover, for use with Longhorn football notes. Cover features Longhorn football player, Derrick Johnson...
Tom Herman’s recruiting success at Texas not solely based on Houston
Tom Herman’s recruiting success at Texas not solely based on Houston

Stay updated on the latest Texas Longhorns recruiting news brought to you by Mike Craven of Hookem.com. The Forty will publish M-F at 10 a.m. each morning to provide Texas fans with an in-depth look at the latest for the Longhorns on the recruiting trail. Much was made of Tom Herman’s run of commitments from Houston-area...
Top opponents for Texas in 2017, No. 11: USC RB Ronald Jones II
Top opponents for Texas in 2017, No. 11: USC RB Ronald Jones II

The countdown to kickoff is on. Over the 100 days before Texas takes on Maryland, we’re counting down the 100 best players the Longhorns will face in 2017. This series is all about impressing your friends at pregame tailgates and watch parties, so grab a notepad and buckle up. Don’t fall into the trap...
The Texas 22: Starting at defensive tackle — Chris Nelson
The Texas 22: Starting at defensive tackle — Chris Nelson

We’re breaking down who we think will be Texas’ starting lineup, a combined effort from Mike Craven, Brian Davis and Danny Davis. We’re doing two a day, one offensive and one defensive player. CHRIS NELSON Junior defensive tackle, 6-3, 300 High school: Lakeland (Fla.) Victory Christian Signing class: 2014 Career games...
More Stories