Two local runners bring home All-American honorsJan 21, 2022 09:06AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Kaysville’s Jonas Clay is now a two-time All-American after a 17th-place finish at the AAU Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina recently. (Photo courtesy Stephen Clay)
“It was harder this year for me because I hadn’t been able to run as much as usual because I was busy with other sports, so I wasn’t training as much,” Jonas said. “Even though I felt less prepared, I had done it quite a few times, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything else except just running.”
“I felt kind of tired after my race,” Jacob said. “But, it was good to get a medal.”
Race Cats coach Jami Caldwell said, “Jonas is always a really strong runner,” noting that he also placed in the top three in each of his races this season and won the Triple Crown series. “Jacob had an incredible season as well, winning every race he ran until nationals.”
Also competing at nationals Dec. 4 were Lydia Johnson, Jacob’s sister, and siblings Jackson and Juliana Grover.
Jonas, son of Stephen and Monica Clay of Kaysville, has been to nationals every year since 2018 and was part of the second-place boys 11-12 team last season. That finish earned the seventh grader at Shoreline Junior High School in Layton his first All-American recognition.
He started running through a program at the Layton Recreation Center when he was six years old. “He got really into it, loved it and excelled at it,” Stephen Clay said. “I used to run with him, but he’s too fast for me now and goes for runs on his own. Soon, he’ll start training with Davis High School.”
Jonas said he appreciates the sportsmanship he has seen in the running community. “I like how you want everyone to do well,” he said, noting that his work in the sport has also increased his ability to do hard things.
Stephen Clay has seen his son learn how to set goals and work hard to accomplish them. “That self-motivation that he is full of translates into so many areas in life,” Stephen Clay said. “Jonas is never satisfied and is always pushing harder.”
Jacob Johnson, son of Neal and Becca Johnson of Bountiful, finished his 2K race at nationals in a time of 8:01, beating his previous personal best by 38 seconds. “I guess you could say Jacob wanted to represent his ‘area code’ with his time,” said Neal Johnson. “We were hoping for top 25, but the low altitude and extra competition pushed him and he almost made top 10.”
Neal ran cross country in high school and wanted to get his kids involved in running, so Jacob and Lydia joined Race Cats on a recommendation from some friends.
“I didn’t know how they would do,” Neal Johnson said. “I put Jacob on the competition team, hoping he wouldn’t get creamed and then he ended up doing the creaming.”
Jacob competed in races in Provo, Sandy, Taylorsville and Fruit Heights during the season and won each event.
“It’s nice to run and I have good friends,” Jacob Johnson said. “Plus, I’m really good at it.”
Lydia, a fifth grader at Bountiful Elementary, placed sixth in the Triple Crown series this season, and also competed in her first national 3K race.
“At the beginning of the season, I had no intentions of taking them to North Carolina,” Neal Johnson said. “It’s been amazing to watch my kids learn the feeling of accomplishment and wanting to improve, wanting to compete and pushing themselves and sticking with it even though it’s hard. And, they’ve made friends along the way.”
The Race Cats club had a goal for each runner to log 100 miles this past season with those who completed it receiving a t-shirt. Jacob and Lydia both accomplished this goal and have their sights on collegiate scholarships after watching BYU’s Connor Mantz win back-to-back individual NCAA titles the past two seasons.
“I was so proud of my athletes that went to nationals,” Caldwell said. “They’re incredible kids and I love seeing them gain confidence in themselves and learn to love running.”
The motto of Race Cats is “Have Fun, Work Hard, Dream Big.” “I think my kids are starting to learn that they can really dream big if they are willing to put in the work, and that work can be made fun along the way,” Neal Johnson said. “Shout out to Jami and the program she runs and her organization with it all. She makes it fun and it has been a real positive experience for us.”
Stephen Clay echoed Johnson. “We love the Race Cats program,” he said. “They teach how to work hard and be a good teammate.”