Salute to Seniors: Zach Johnson Q&A

Zach Johnson is a distance runner from Crescenta Valley HS. (all photos courtesy of Zach Johnson)

MileSplitCA offered seniors a platform to share their stories and experiences either in Q&A format or story form. This is one in that series. Click here for details on how to share your story.


School: Crescenta Valley High School

Event: Distances

Q: What was your most memorable race/moment? 

  • My most memorable race was the Mt. SAC XC Invite my senior year. I remember going into it with a PR of 16:00 and just wanting to hit 15:30. During the race, I remember running with a group of runners who were all way faster than me but I was feeling great and just decided to keep going with them. They ended up pushing me to a 14:56 and a 9th place finish. I was over the moon. I never could've imagined myself finishing top 10 in a big invite or running sub-15 at Mt. SAC.

Q: Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

  • I think my biggest competition over the years was Jagdeep Chahal from Burroughs. Ever since league meets our freshman year, we have been pushing each other, and we kept alternating between who would beat the other. Obviously, during senior year track I couldn't keep up with the momentum he had. He had such an amazing season and blew the rest of us away. I'm going to miss running with him, because he pushed me so much and did so with incredible humility. 

Q: What was your greatest accomplishment?

  • My greatest accomplishment wasn't my accomplishment alone, but my team's. It was getting 5th at the State Champs. After a pretty bad race at CIF Finals, we had no idea how we were going to do. But we all gave it our best, and ended up running really well and beating teams that had beaten us before. If you told us in the summer that we'd be the 5th best team in California, we would've thought you're insane.

Q: If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?

  • If I could do it all over again, I'd put way more emphasis on doing the little things. Eat healthy, sleep a LOT, stretch, do core and strengthening, do more double days. Incorporating all of that into my training my senior year is what helped me and my team find such great success, but I can't even imagine what wonders it would've done if we had not been lazy and done those things earlier on in high school.

Q: What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

  • I think the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was staying positive my senior year track season. I had an extremely rough first few races, and it was very easy to just feel helpless and want to give up. Trying to bounce back from those bad races and keep improving took a lot of mental strength.

Q: What will you miss the most?

  • Easily my team. Every team has such a unique culture and I know I will miss mine so much. I'd never met a group of guys that is so easy to crack jokes with and get along with. They're my family, and it's so sad to think that I'm never going to run with those 14 guys again. 

Q: What advice would you give to younger athletes?

  • To the younger athletes: remember to enjoy the sport. That's why you do it, and that's how you improve. It's all very exciting when you enter high school, and you want to put 110% effort into your running, which is awesome, but keep in mind that you have four years ahead and that you don't want to burn yourself out. Run because you enjoy running. Don't push yourself too much simply because you think you have to to be the best.

Q: What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?

  • My coach is the reason I worked so hard. He had more confidence in me than I did in myself. He told me he believed I could run times I had never fathomed running. He made me see myself as so much stronger of a runner than I thought I was, which gave me the confidence to run with guys I was probably too slow to run with. Before Coach Rob, I ran with my legs. Because of him, I run with my heart. 

Q: What are your college plans?
  • Next year, I'm going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study applied mathematics. They're a D3 program, and I'm beyond excited to be competing for their team!!! I'm gonna have to buy some winter coats though...

Q: Who would you like to say thank you to?

  • I want to thank my teammates and my parents. To my teammates, thank you for cheering me up on my off days and for giving me a reason to push my hardest. Whenever I was doubtful, I remembered that you guys were counting on me, and that made me think beyond myself and run my very hardest. Thanks for the KBBQ runs, the post-race Panda, and the beach days. You guys have filled me with some of the best memories of my life. 
  • To my parents, thank you for coming to 97° XC meets and screaming your heads off for me anyways. Thank you for listening to me complain about how hard that day's workout was. Thank you for adapting your grocery lists to buy foods essential to runners. You guys are my rock and have made the difficult journey of high school running so much smoother. I love you guys!

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

  • If you wear cotton shirts on runs we can't be friends.

Q: What will you miss the most? "Easily my team. Every team has such a unique culture and I know I will miss mine so much. I'd never met a group of guys that is so easy to crack jokes with and get along with. They're my family, and it's so sad to think that I'm never going to run with those 14 guys again." --Zach Johnson (bib #5781)