Alijah Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) had a busy first track meet of the season, participating in three events last Saturday at the Bast-Cregger Invitational.
The sophomore more than proved he is ready to take the next step after being named the EMU Male Freshman of the Year in 2018-19. Alijah won his first race of the day at the Bast-Cregger and established a PR in the 300m. Then he missed his PR by a mere 0.01 of a second in the 60m dash. And he capped the meet by breaking his indoor PR in the 200m, surging to the No. 2 spot in EMU history.
Was it the kind of day he was hoping for? Possibly. Was it the kind of day his coach was hoping for? Definitely.
With the great start to the year, Alijah firmly planted himself among the best of the sprinters in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. It promises to be an exciting indoor track & field season for our Royals Athlete of the Week!
What was your mindset coming into this season and how did you prepare for it?
My mindset going into this season was to monitor my own growth and exercise patience and health. I began to change my mindset and prepare before my summer vacation even started. I wanted to be confident in myself and to have my technique down to a science. I still have a lot to improve but I know that I have a lot to give as well.
What did it mean to you to win your first race of the year, including beating a handful of D-II runners?
It meant a lot to me considering the fact that I was told to treat the race like a warm up. The 300 is my favorite race and it was exciting to see how much I’ve improved in it. As for beating a handful of D-II runners, it didn’t matter too much to me. I have never viewed an athlete’s division as something that makes them better or worse than me. Nobody is on their A-game 24/7 and anybody can be beaten.
How did last weekend's meet set you up for the rest of the season?
Last weekend’s meet solidified my confidence in myself even more. My number one priority was to learn about my body, what works and what doesn’t, and to get stronger! I’m confident that I will have a great year.
What goals do you have for this season?
I just want to go as far as I can this season. There’s no particular PR that I want but the goal is to improve upon last year and I have done just that and more already. I would also like to be a good example of what a student-athlete at EMU looks like both on and off the track, as well as be a good leader, and to provide guidance for our new recruits.
What is something you have learned about yourself during your time as an EMU Royal?
I learned that I love to try new things, challenge myself and that I enjoy helping and encouraging others. Running is also something that I enjoy way more than I thought I did.
What is your major and what do you want to do after college?
My major is digital media and visual communications. After college, I would like to pursue graphic design, or web design, due to my passion for the arts.
Coach Erick Camodeca on Alijah Johnson:
Alijah's performance last weekend was incredible. Without telling him prior to the meet, that is what I was hoping for from him. His fall training went really well, and I knew he was going to have a bigger and better year than last year.
Our meet strategy could not have been better, especially for the first meet. We wanted to test him out in all of his events, and get him comfortable. Our goal to kick off the meet was to run the 300 to get the first race of the year out of the way. We had no expectations as far as a time since it is a not a NCAA race which made it easier as far as feeling pressure. The 60m dash was used to test his flat-out speed, and again no big expectations because the 60m is not Alijah’s main event. Those two races went really well as far as placing and performance. I was not sure how he was going to handle the 200m, already having two great races under his belt, handling the mental pressure of racing a guy who beat him last year and not ending the outdoor season the way he wanted. The 200m was by far his best race of the day. He grew up in front our eyes as a competitor. Last year, we would see Alijah fade away or change his race as guys got away from him. Alijah stuck to his plan and almost narrowed out a win, but more importantly ran a phenomenal time that reaffirms the work he has put in.