Fort Campbell | April 26, 2018
Teams from across Kentucky and Tennessee converged at Fryar Stadium Saturday to take part in the seventh annual Coach Johnson Memorial Classic, Fort Campbell’s second home meet of the year.
The meet is held in memory of Fort Campbell High School track coach, Tyrone Johnson, who died in December 2011 just before what would have been his first season as head coach.
The morning got off to a slow start, with the field events delayed as referees waited for athletes from visiting schools to arrive. The track events began on time with the 800-meter girls relay. Soon the stadium was filled with cheers as teams encouraged not only their own players, but their competitors as well – on a day when many athletes reached new personal records.
“I think the teams did well. We were missing some of our kids because of prom, but [I] can’t take that away from them,” said Tavis Kennedy, Fort Campbell head coach. “The ones who came out still participated and did a great job for us.”
Local teams from Hopkinsville, Cadiz and Clarksville, as well as newcomers all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, came out to celebrate the influential coach.
“We open [the meet] up,” Kennedy said. “We try to host a good meet so teams will be encouraged to come back. So far all these teams have been here before and they’ve returned.”
Kennedy said the purpose of the meet is to keep Johnson’s mindset, vision and spirit alive.
“Coach Johnson … was a great mentor to these kids. [He] did a lot to help them out academically as well as in sports,” Kennedy said. “I talk about him so they’ll know who he was and his memory will never die.”
Falcons senior Damien Bowe was pleased with his team’s performance at the meet.
“I personally [achieved my personal record] in all of my events and Austin [Keeling] PRed in most of his,” said Bowe, who took first place in the boys 110-meter hurdles, fourth in boys 300-meter hurdles and sixth in boys triple jump.
Keeling, a junior, hit a new personal record in long jump and triple jump, taking first place in both events. He also took second place in boys high jump.
“We bumped our state rankings up pretty good, so that’s always good,” Keeling said. “It means we’re becoming more consistent overall.”
Keeling runs with the relay team as well, which he said helps him overall by making him more acclimated with the track and field.
Because of the way the events were scheduled, it was a little harder for Bowe.
“My events are all kind of clustered together. So, I have the 4x100-meter relay, the 300-meter hurdles, then the triple jump all right next to each other, so it is kind of tiring, but today I just pushed through it and tried to do my best in every event,” Bowe said.
Bowe is trying to make the most of his final season on the team.
“I was seeded fifth, and [Keeling] was seeded like seventh, and we both got first,” Bowe said. “You always come in expecting to win. You can’t come in expecting to get second.”
Keeling said it was a tight victory.
“It was tight, but we knew we were going to win,” he said. Although neither teen knew Coach Johnson, they still believe it is important to remember him.
“Even though we didn’t know him, we ran with a lot of kids, we jumped with a lot of kids who knew him,” Keeling said. “As soon as we joined the track team, he had just passed, so it’s like carrying on a tradition for them.”
FCHS freshman Jahlyn Mincey feels like she did very well at the meet.
“I finally broke 13 [minutes] and ran a 12.9 today,” she said of her 100-meter dash performance. “As a freshman it’s really hard, but I think I did really well.”
Mincey said her relay team could have done better, but several of her teammates were absent from the meet. She was still pleased.
“It doesn’t really matter about the trophies or anything,” Mincey said. “Track is really just about how much effort you’re willing to do and how much you can push yourself to see how much success you can achieve.”
Mincey ran track last year, so this year was all about improving and getting the chance to return to the state championship.
“It’s definitely been going well, I’m so glad I PRed,” she said.
Although Mincey never met Coach Johnson, she feels the team has a connection with him.
“With the amount of times coach talks about him and how he really cared about the track team and how supportive he was, it’s like we all know him through spirit, so we all keep him in mind whenever we run,” she said. “He had so much faith in this team and it’s like, how could you ever not acknowledge someone like that?”
To Mincey the track team is a Family, whether they win or lose their meets.
“It’s just been great this year. Seeing people who were scared to come out, came out this year,” she said. “It’s just honestly great to see everyone do their best and PR and everything.”
The Fort Campbell girls team placed eighth, while the boys took sixth overall.
Fort Campbell will host the Area 1 Championship May 4 at Fryar Stadium.
“That meet I’m pretty sure we’re going to have more kids here, and hopefully we’ll do a lot better than what we did today because we’ll have a lot more bodies,” Kennedy said. “I think we’ll be OK.”