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Victoria, BC’s Justine Johnson currently competes for the University of Washington. She graduated from Oak Bay High School having trained under coach Keith Butler.

Johnson competed in the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in March of 2009, running for Team Canada in Amman, Jordan and qualified by placing fifth at the 2008 Canadian Junior Cross Country Championships after finishing 16th the previous year, she took fifth at the 2009 NACAC Championships that took place in Florida and finished sixth at the 2008 Canadian Junior Track Championships in the 1500-meter distance event. Johnson was the B.C. Provincial Cross Country Champion as a junior and a senior after placing second as a freshman and sophomore. She also won the provincial titles at 1500m and 3000m as a junior. She did not defend titles as a senior due to illness

Christopher Kelsall: You are having a solid start in your first year at the University of Washington, tackling your short-term running goals. How about the long-term, where do you expect to be during your final year at UW and beyond?

Justine Johnson: My overall long-term goal would be having the opportunity to compete for my country (Canada) someday. I have dreamt about going to the Olympics since I was a freshman in high school. By my final year at UW, I would love to have helped the team to a XC NCAA title. I was excited coming into the cross-country season in the fall, watching the older girls on the team train and prepare for nationals. It has given me lots of motivation to try to get there myself someday and be part of an NCAA championship team. Being able to train with such talented and hard-working teammates like Katie Follet, I have seen a lot of improvement in myself already. I think a lot of big things could happen by senior year.

CK: For your senior year how would these times stack up in comparison?

800m – 2:11
1500m. – 4:34
3000m – 9:58

JJ: Although those were my PR’s as a senior I actually ran the 4:34 and the 9:58 as a ninth-grader and the 2:11 in eleventh grade. I believe I was well on my way to run a lot faster than that my senior year, but due to illness I never got to race any track. I think overall I was happy with my high school senior times, but I think I have a long way to go if I want to go and be competitive in the NCAA championships by my senior year of college.

From the University of Washington Husky’s bio:

2009: A strong redshirt season in her first year, competing unattached to preserve eligibility … finished 21st at the season-opening Sundodger Invite, third among unattached runners … impressive second-place effort at the Emerald City Open, tops among freshmen … ended the fall placing 13th at the Mike Hodges Invite in Oregon.

CK: By her senior year, your inspiration, fellow Canadian and UW runner Anita Campbell ran 3000m in 9:35.57, it appears you are on your way to competing with those times by your senior year.

JJ: I think with lots of hard work I could get there. Anita is such an awesome role model because she works hard every day and always tells us every day of training counts. I try to follow her example and do good work every day. My biggest goal for this year is not to put limits on myself. I need to learn how to keep it simple. Just going and running; not thinking about it.

CK: Do you have a favourite race distance?

1500m out-door would probably be my favorite distance because its not too short and not too long.

What are some of the specific things that a senior like Katie does that you notice is different?

JJ: Katie, as well as all the seniors, hold themselves to a higher standard than I have ever seen before. They treat themselves as professional athletes in all aspects of life. They work hard, eat properly, and make sure they get enough sleep. It may not seem like a lot but balancing all of those things is intense especially with tons of schoolwork.

CK: Missing Victoria?

JJ: I really miss Victoria, but I think all freshmen go through that stage of missing their own bed, food, family and friends (dorm food sucks!). Victoria was a really awesome place to grow up because it is a small town, full of running trails and beautiful scenery, but I love Seattle. Living in a big city is fun because there are plenty of things to do and our campus is only 15 minutes away from downtown Seattle. It doesn’t seem like it, but there are actually plenty of places to run here, my favorite place is called the watershed where the team does long runs.

CK: Ever get to the 8-mile loop in Discovery Park?

JJ: Not yet, I tend to stay near campus but over the break, I will have to check it out.

CK: What are your current top-listened to songs on your iPod?

JJ: I just bought the Blue Print 3 album (Jay-Z) so I have been listening to that a lot recently, but generally I listen to everything. My favourite artist is Lupe Fiasco. I am all over the map when it comes to music, sometimes I listen to “techno” but my team loves Keith Urban so I have some country songs on my iPod as well. When I am not running, I listen to John Mayer and Jack Johnson.

CK: Lupe will be in Seattle on May 5th I think. Do you have your tickets yet?

JJ: Not yet! Tickets haven’t gone on sale yet, but I am hoping I will be able to go with some friends.

CK: It appears you might be a bit of a running fan outside of being a competitor yourself, three of your four favourite quotes are from runners. I like the Craig Mottram one: “go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, wait for the bell, go hard” in reference to the 400. What about: “I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But, if you can’t handle me at me worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” Are you channeling Alanis Morisette or is that your quote?

JJ: That actually wasn’t my own quote, but I am too embarrassed to tell you who said it! I am a huge fan of Craig Mottram though, I have watched his movie “The Big Mazungo” too many times to count. My roommate and I keep quotes all over our room to keep us motivated throughout the day. I like to think about them when I am running.

CK: Don’t be embarrassed, she was apparently smarter than she looks and could run a 4:50 mile. Here’s one: “All I want to do is drink beer and train like an animal.” Any thoughts on who may have said that?

JJ: Rod Dixon…I only know that because I Googled it.

CK: That’s almost cheating, but that’s ok I lied about Marilyn Monroe running a 4:50 mile. How was running at Oak Bay High School under Keith Butler for your development?

JJ: Keith was an awesome high school coach for me. I had tons of different coaches throughout my high school career but “Mr. B” as I called him, remained a constant support for me. He really took the pressure off of running and made it a fun team sport rather than making it a job. He always made it clear to me that running should be for me, I shouldn’t be running for anyone else. The only expectations I should have were the ones I put on myself.

CK: What are some examples of other top quotes you and your roommate have posted up?

JJ: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare”… “I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.”… “Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.”

CK: That philosophy sounds like it is in-line with running a race in thirds, heart, head and personality. Is there a conscious effort to race a race wholly for yourself – to separate the ego from the performance?

JJ: I always try to remember when I am racing that I do it because I love it and I want to succeed for myself. I feel that adding outside pressures such as trying to race for other people, trying to prove yourself sucks all the joy out of racing. I had to learn in high school to race for myself, race because I want to and not because I have to.

CK: What are some examples of other top quotes you and your roommate have posted up?

JJ: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare”… “I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.”… “Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.”

CK: How did the last chance meet go Sunday, March 7?

JJ: It went really well I think. I ran a 4:47, which was around where I wanted to be. It felt really good as well. I love those races where you pace yourself perfectly and it feels awesome when you are running.

Are either of your parents runners?

JJ: My dad runs marathons for “fun” and they both played sports when they were in high school.

CK: Did you play any other sports as a kid?

JJ: I played pretty much everything. Swimming, soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball, and triathlon. My two main sports besides running were soccer and basketball, which I played up until Grade 10. I stopped because I kept getting hurt and didn’t want to risk getting injured for running.