Young Pascagoula track star heading to national meet
Sunday, July 13, 2008
By LINDSAY MOTT Staff Reporter

In her first event ever, 9-year-old Julina Johnson broke the state record for her age group for the 50-meter dash.

After running a race at Central Elementary School's field day, Julina was approached by a track coach about the possibility of running in the state competition. She agreed. And she hasn't stop running fast since.

With her record-breaking run, the Pascagoula resident qualified to run in the national meet for the Hershey Track and Field Games youth program in Hershey, Pa., Aug. 2.

She won the 50-meter dash in the state-qualifying event on June 7 at Gulfport High School. By finishing in 7.06 seconds, Johnson broke the state record in her age group. The previous record of 7.28 seconds was established in 2006.

That's something big, said Julina's mother, Shirley Johnson. I'm so shocked because I didn't know she was actually this fast.

According to Larry Davis, the state director of Hershey Track and Field Games, Julina's success may be just beginning.

If she runs this time at nationals, she can win it, he said, noting that most times at the national event range from 7.5 to 8 seconds.

She was quick out of the blocks, and when she got ahead, she was moving, he said.

According to Shirley Johnson, track is not something they would have originally looked into, but running is something they now want to pursue.

Now she likes it, and I'm glad because it's something I did and I can help her, she said.

Now that she has proven her potential, Julina races every other day to prepare for the national event.

She wants to race now because she thinks she's fast, her mother said.

About 550 athletes will compete in individual competitions in Hershey. The Hershey Youth Program is the largest youth sports program of its kind in North America and is designed to encourage physical fitness and sportsmanship in youth.

Reporter Lindsay Mott can be reached at lmott@themississippipress.com or 228-934-1435.