Angel Johnson learned something new about herself at the 2017 Texas Southern University Relays.

The junior sprinter at Fort Bend ISD’s Thurgood Marshall High School thought she had already figured out what were her favorite events. Then a revelation occurred during one of the meet’s preliminary relay heats.

“The 100- and 200- used to be my favorite races,” Johnson said. “Yesterday I surprised myself in the 4X400 so now I think the 200- and 400-meter dashes are my favorites.”

Marshall head girls track coach Benita Smith is ecstatic about the return of Johnson from a hamstring injury that sidelined her for much of the 2016 season. A banner freshman year made her a cornerstone of the program in the sprints and relays.

As the 2017 season nears its midpoint, Johnson is already on pace to better her personal best time of 24.6 seconds in the 200-meter dash.

“Gaining that self-confidence back is the main thing when returning from a hamstring injury,” Smith said. “An injury like that can lead to second guessing from the student-athlete when they’re trying to make a comeback.

“We try to make sure they are confident enough to put that power back into the muscle. Once they get that confidence back, then everything is fine,” Smith said.

The 2017 Marshall High School girls’ track team is youthful with one senior, one junior and an assortment of freshmen and sophomores. Johnson is one of the team leaders.

She learned to accept and relish responsibility at a young age.

“It means a lot to me to be able to compete for Marshall High School,” Johnson said. “I come from a family of athletes so being one of the top athletes at the school and in this region is really a big deal.

“I have so many people to make proud and to do this for,” Johnson said. “I want to thank my coach for all her support and the team for never giving up on me.”

While Johnson settles into her post-injury routine, she looks forward to a new challenge in the 400-meter dash.

“You have to know how to run the 400,” she said. “You have to get out well and maintain down the backstretch. Then you must have the strength in the last 150 meters to just kick it in and take it home strong.”

Smith believes Johnson is just beginning to scratch the surface of what she can accomplish in the future.

“She’s a great athlete and has the confidence now to do whatever she puts her mind to,” Smith said. “I look for her to run at the next level in Division I and her goal is to one day compete in the Olympics. So we’re working on her self-discipline to get there.”

Johnson says this has been an extraordinary year at Marshall High School, especially in athletics. The football team advanced to the regional final and the boys’ basketball team was a Class 5A championship game finalist.

The Marshall boys’ track team is a two-time defending state champion.

“The school vibe has been uplifted. Everybody’s spirits are high and the school spirit is sky high,” Johnson said. “Everybody is on a mission for greatness this year.”

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