(Gulf Shores, AL) The illustrious career for Stephanie Johnston (JR/Brantford, ON) reached another milestone on Thursday night at the NAIA Outdoor National Championship in Gulf Shores, AL. The junior standout entered her first event at the championship in the 10,000 meters and placed third overall with a time of 36:43.13. The time and place once again set a personal and school record for Johnston which also earned her NAIA All-American status. Johnston completes the All-American trifecta by receiving honors in cross country, indoor track and now outdoor.
Moments after her big performance and a cool down, Johnston was able to reflect on the race. "The race was really special for me! I never imagined I would become a 3 season All-American. When I came to Concordia I didn't even know what All-American meant. I am glad I could come out here and put everything I had on the line for my coaches, teammates, family and God."
Johnston last ran the 10,000m on April 13th as a participant in the Dan Kleinow Invitational with a time of 37:13.28. The time seeded her 9th among NAIA competitors and met the NAIA qualifying A standard to punch her ticket to the NAIA National Championship.
The race featured a slow start as participants were reluctant to take the lead. Johnston led for a few laps before settling into the 2-5 spots for much of the race. In the 2nd mile, Johnston's shoelace came untied and despite the brief distraction, she was able to refocus and finish strong. Johnston held the second spot for the last lap before narrowly being edged at the finish line.
"I think I must have hit the top of my shoe on someone's heel. It has never happened to me before as I usually triple knot my shoelaces. I have watched many post-race interviews with Olympians who have had it happen. They just keep on running so there was a moment in the race when it happened where I thought okay if your shoe comes off just keep going. I knew my shoe was tight enough that it wouldn't fall off unless someone clipped my heel. I was worry for about a lap then I quickly settled back into my rhythm," Johnston explained.
Head Cross Country and Distance Coach Jamie LaBrosse was proud of her ability to fight through adversity and finish strong. "Steph ran great! The race went out a bit slow for her liking and her shoe came untied in the 2nd mile but she was able to fight through it and stay focused. It was a big PR for her. A three time All-American in one year is quite the accomplishment."
Johnston will quickly shift focus and prep for her second event of the championship when she competes in the 5k trials Friday evening at 6:10pm (CDT). The finals for the 5k will take place on Saturday. On May 4th, Johnston ran the 5000 meters and placed 1st at the WHAC Outdoor Championship with a time of 17:39 which is currently the 21st fastest time in the NAIA.