Pedal to the metal: Junior's stellar season capped off with award

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As Zoey Johnson began to take off in this fall’s cross-country state meet for the first time in her career, thoughts floated through her mind.

“I was standing at the start line, and I looked to my left and I looked to my right, and it was just a never-ending line of girls,” the Seymour High School junior said. “I was just like, ‘Wow! I am competing against every one of these girls.’ It wasn’t like just a regular invitational where you’re looking for one or two girls. It was just an overwhelming feeling that like, ‘Wow! We are all at the same level. We’re all competing for the same thing.’

“It was a good feeling, but it was hard to keep your confidence up whenever you get to that point.”

Johnson pushed through, finishing in 18:56 and placing 27th of 195 girls. That capped off a stellar junior season, when she won the first invitational of the year, was the Hoosier Hills Conference champion and set a course record and finished in the top five at sectional, regional and semistate. Her best time of the season was 18:26 at semistate.

Those accomplishments made her a unanimous choice as The Tribune’s 2012 Athlete of the Year for girls cross-country.

Johnson faced some adversity early in her high school career, and she said she didn’t expect to have the year that she had.

“After my knee surgery my freshman year, I just felt like I was really behind all the other girls I had raced with in junior high and stuff,” she said. “So this summer, I really made it a priority to get back to where I should be and where I wanted to be.”

Johnson put in a lot of miles in the summer, and it paid off.

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