South Charlotte

Athlete of the week: Sprinter more than just 1 step ahead of pack

Varonica Johnson wants to be faster every time she steps on the track.

The Providence Day senior sprinter has been the fastest during most of her final season as a Charger, breaking a personal or school record nearly every time she races.

Johnson, 18, who has been running since she was 5 years old, is ultra-competitive whether she is running against the nation's best or against herself in practice.

"I do make it a competition with myself every time I run, whether it is in practice or in a meet," Johnson said. "Even if I win and don't run my best, I am disappointed. I have high standards for what I think I should do."

Vanessa Johnson, Varonica's mother, agrees with her daughter after watching her compete on a daily basis for more than 13 years.

"Varonica wants to be faster every time she runs," Vanessa said. "She doesn't just say or think that, she has worked and trained harder than ever this past year. As a result, her times have been dropping almost every meet."

Johnson has lived up to her own standards most of the year, setting personal bests in the 100-meter dash (11.9 seconds), 200-meter dash (24.7 seconds) and the 400-meter run (58.5 seconds) last week in a CISAA meet at Charlotte Christian. Johnson also recently was named MVP of the Blue Devil Invitational at Mooresville High School in a field that included many of best runners from 3A and 4A public schools.

Johnson hopes to be even faster still, as the CISAA conference meet, the NCISAA 3A state meet and Nike Nationals in Greensboro all occur in the next few months.

"I do want to make my final mark at Providence Day," said Johnson, who is also an A and B student in the classroom. "But I am always aiming higher. I am always thinking of the next thing, the next race, the next accomplishment."

At states last year, Johnson became the first girl to win the 100, 200 and 400-meter state titles in the same year in more than 30 years.

This year, Johnson is looking to repeat her feat, but by the end of the race she already will be thinking about her training for the Nike Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro on June 16-18.

"I definitely want to be at my best at Nationals," said Johnson. "When you get an opportunity to run against the best (sprinters) in the country, you want to show that you belong."

Johnson recently committed to Villanova University, where she will go to school and run track the next four years.

Johnson picked the Wildcats over Harvard, Iowa, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, to name a few. In the end, Johnson felt Villanova gave her the best chance to succeed as a student-athlete and sprinter.

"I think I have a great chance to improve myself as a student and as a sprinter at Villanova," Johnson said. "When I visited there earlier this month, I just felt like I fit in, and it felt like the right place for me."

Johnson, who holds at least five Providence Day School records on the track, usually fits in wherever she goes because of her hard work, talent and desire to get better.

"Varonica always thinks she can do something bigger and better," Vanessa Johnson said. "In her mind, she hasn't gotten to her full potential. There is more to come, more that we haven't seen.

"She always wants to get to that next level. I think that is what makes her so good all of the time."