Johnsen wins 3,200 over friendly rival

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 26, 2013 

TACOMA - Sehome coach Kevin Ryan called it the perfect ending to Conner Johnsen's career.

The Sehome senior finally captured the 3,200 meter title he's been after since the start of his track and field career, and what a race it was.

Johnsen clipped over eight seconds off his personal best, set a new Class 2A state record, set a new school standard and edged career-long Squalicum rival Patrick Gibson with a title-winning time of 8 minutes, 59.76 seconds during the Class 2A-3A-4A Track and Field State Championships Saturday, May 25, at Mount Tahoma High School.

"The hands up as I crossed the finish line was because I saw I ran under nine (minutes), and I knew I beat (former Sehome runner) Jake Riley's state record then, and that was just insane. It took me a second to get back together. The goal all year was to put your name in the title mix. I definitely did that Thursday, and I kind of had a chip on my shoulder. Coming out here and running fast like that was a lot of fun."

Gibson, the event's defending champion, entered the race as the favorite with the top seed. Johnsen stayed a step behind him during the first 2,950 meters, but with over a half lap to go, Johnsen made his move.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Johnsen shifted his pace into a higher gear, blowing past Gibson with 200 meters left. He stretched his lead to around 10 meters at one point. Gibson didn't have enough energy to track him down, and Johnsen finished more than two seconds in front of his top competitor. Johnsen's final kick drew gasps of amazement from stadium spectators.

"My coaches say you always have the kick, because you're not using those muscles in the two mile," Johnsen said. "They're there. You just have to have the guts to do it. I was a little surprised I had that much, because Patrick was trying to run it out of me. I know he was. He did that last year to Marcus Dickson in the two mile."

Johnsen's win came two days after he lost in a photo finish to Gibson in the 1,600.

"He's been chasing Patrick for four years, and to have that heartbreaking loss by seven thousandths of a second on Thursday night, then to keep faith. It was the perfect ending for him," Ryan said. "He really earned it."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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