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Davis Journal

First-time runner earns All-American honor

Jan 31, 2022 04:05PM ● By Catherine Garrett

Jacob Johnson, a second-grader at Bountiful Elementary, brought home an All-American honor – and medal – from the AAU Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina recently. He placed 11th in the 8-and-under category in just his first season 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, “Jacob had an incredible season, winning every race he ran until nationals.”

Also competing at nationals Dec. 4 were Jonas Clay – who earned All-American recognition for a 17th-place finish in the boys 11-12 race – along with Lydia Johnson, Jacob’s sister, and siblings Jackson and Juliana Grover.

Jacob, 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. “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 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 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 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. “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.”