CEDAR RAPIDS — There are no excuses.
Working hard and improving is not limited to just the field, court or track.
Korey Johnson is one of the girls’ track and field coaches at Xavier High School, focusing on the hurdlers. He is determined to help his runners improve, even during the offseason.
He began making homemade hurdles in the summer of 2017 while he was holding open gyms at different tracks for girls to work on their form.
“I was not sure if any track we traveled to during summer workouts would have hurdles or not so I went to Google to look for alternatives,” Johnson said. “I found a picture of some hurdles made of PVC pipe and went to work making a few to travel with.”
When Johnson received news of the initial long break because of the coronavirus, he bought more material to make hurdles. Once these new hurdles were done, his Xavier hurdlers were able to pick them up and begin using them, which has made their training much easier.
“The hurdles that coach Johnson provided have been great for staying in shape and practicing my hurdle technique,” said Julia Shoger, a senior hurdler who had her season wiped out by the pandemic.
The time and dedication Johnson has put into the Xavier track program, especially for the hurdlers, does not go unnoticed.
“Anyone who is involved in track realizes the sacrifices coach Johnson makes for our team,” Samantha Triplett, a senior hurdler, said. “It is incredible that he took time out of his busy schedule to make these hurdles and I know it means a lot to myself and my teammates.”
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With the relationship Johnson has created with his runners, it is no surprise some of their favorite memories over the years include him.
“Last year at the state qualifying meet, I went up to coach Johnson after my 400 hurdles race, feeling defeated because I knew I did not get the time I needed,” Libby Arnold, a senior hurdler, said. “He always had the right words to say and he knew exactly what to do to fuel the fire I needed to get even more motivated for my senior season.”
During this unprecedented time, the track coaches at Xavier continued to provide their athletes with exercises they can do to stay in shape physically — and mentally.
“I have done some reading and listened to some podcasts around the mental side of sports in an effort to use this to help the girls in the high pressure situations that sports puts them face to face with,” Johnson said.
That balanced coaching approach was recognized by his runners.
“Coach Johnson is by far one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Arnold said. “Not only does he care about you as an athlete, but as a person, too.”