Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019
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Johnson impressed with sprint progress

Kevin Johnson knows a lot about sprinting. He happens to be arguably the greatest high school track star in the country’s history.

As a 16-year-old star at Attucks High in Miami, Florida, he ran 9.6 for the 100-yards dash. The Florida newspapers raved about the amazing Bahamian sprinter.

He returned home while still at Attucks and outclassed the veteran Tom Grant in a highly anticipated 200 meters(m)encounter. It was the feature event of the day at the St. Augustine’s College track.

The gun sounded and they were off. There was Grant, who is known also as Berutti(after the Italian speedster Livio Berutti who ran with dark prescription glasses), and’The Bird’because of how he spread his arms, bird-like when he made basketball shots at the famed Priory Grounds.

The colorful Grant was flying high and seemed in control, leading the race coming out of the turn. Like a flash though, Johnson came on and midway down the homestretch, the race was his. It was his first big win at home. Many more were to come, including the sensational 200m trials final of 1968. His blocks slipped and he expected the race to be called back. It wasn’t and he finally got going again when the field was some 20m gone.

The rest of the race demonstrated just how legends are born. Johnson ate up the track like never before, moved up the pack and came out of the turn with just Bernard Nottage and Norris Stubbs ahead. Quickly he picked them both off and crossed the finish line the clear, absolute winner.

He was also the anchor runner for the legendary 1968 national(39.4)record-setting team that included Tommy Robinson, Nottage and Stubbs.

In 1970, Johnson was the fourth best sprinter at the Central American and Caribbean(CAC)Games in Panama. He was right there behind Cuba’s Pablo Montes(now deceased)and Hermes Ramirez and Jamaica’s Michael Fray. Kevin Johnson knows something about sprinting.

There was sincerity in his voice(no joking as he is often inclined)when he gave his perspective of sprinting in The Bahamas during his era, after and up to now.

“I was fortunate to overlap the career of Tommy(Robinson). He is the godfather of sprinting in the country and he forever will be that. Watching him over the years when he competed and in retirement as he continued to help the national program, I have more respect for him now than ever. The bond we have will never die. I enjoyed the runs I had with BJ(Bernard Nottage)and’Nuts'(Norris Stubbs). They caused you to give all you had.

“Then, there was Mike Sands, the very best of the crew that overlapped with me in the 1970s. He was a terrific sprinter who brought more glamor to the sport. He was outstanding. I can tell you…anyone who could run the 100, the 200 and the 400 and place in the top two in all, had to be a tremendous athlete. Walter Callendar(now deceased)was my training partner for a few times when I came home. He was a hustling sprinter who made the most of his talents.

“Rudy Levarity came on after I had retired. He wasn’t there with us during the 1960s and early 1970s but he was an excellent athlete. I respect also what people like Andrew Tynes, Iram Lewis and Derrick Atkins(who broke Johnson’s 100m record at Dickinson State, North Dakota), have done,”said Johnson.

He had high praise also for female sprinting in the country.

“Those Golden Girls. They ended up more superb than the men. To win gold at the Olympics and the World Championships…man, hats off to them,”he said.

There was a lot of praise also for the young sensation Shaunae Miller who last year won the Junior Worlds 400m gold title. Johnson likened her to one of the great 400m runners in history, American Lee Evans.

“This girl did what I only saw Lee Evans(1968 Olympics 400m gold medalist)do. She ran from lane eight, the hardest lane on the track and came home first for The Bahamas.”

Johnson thinks Miller has the opportunity to be an”awesome”senior athlete. He said the sprint future of the country continues to be in”great hands”and he anticipates the talent group will expand. He loves how sprinting has maintained its development process in the country and expressed pride in being part of the quality history of track and field.

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