In a race to get to the races

Kindall Johnson and John Foster must high-tail it from a test in Tampa to Winter Park.

Published May 4, 2007

TAMPA - They're concerned with neither heat nor headwind. At this point, the only variable that worries Hillsborough seniors Kindall Johnson and John Foster as they enter the biggest races of their respective 17-year-old lives is their lane assignment.

The passing lane on Interstate 4.

The boys and girls 4x800-meter relays at today's Class 3A meet in Winter Park may not be quite as intense as the race Johnson and Foster will wage against the clock - and I-4 traffic - in the late-morning hours preceding their specialty event.

The duo, students in Hillsborough High's International Baccalaureate program, must be at west Tampa's Egypt Shrine Auditorium today at 8 a.m. to take an English essay exam required for an IB diploma. Participants have two hours to finish it.

The first heat of the girls 4x800 at Winter Park's Showalter Field, 101 miles from the test site, is at 1 p.m.

Johnson and her three teammates are scheduled for it. Foster's team is slated for the second heat of the boys 4x800, 45 minutes later.

Warming up for those races may not be an option. Showing up is the immediate concern.

"I'm pretty sure I'll get there on time, " Foster said.

Barring, of course, a traffic snarl that would quash the travel plans laid out by the Terriers runners, coaches and parents.

Roger Caruso, a Hillsborough girls volunteer assistant, will be waiting at the Shrine building in his 1997 Honda Civic, ready to high-tail it to Winter Park the moment Johnson completes the test. Megan Foster, John's mother, also will be waiting in her '99 Mercury minivan to transport her son.

"I'm not worried at all, " said Johnson, who runs the first leg of her team's relay and is known by virtually everyone as "Sunshine."

"I think everyone else around me is, but I feel like my life is in divine order. I know I'm going to finish my test and get there on time. I'm not panicked."

According to Johnson, who will attend Florida A&M University on a full academic scholarship, students may not leave the test site during the first hour or final 15 minutes of the exam. Those who finish in the interim 45 minutes may leave.

John Foster, who will attend the University of Florida and could receive up to 30 college credit hours with an IB diploma, said he hopes to finish it in about 90 minutes. He thinks Johnson will finish even earlier.

"She'll probably be done before me, because it's an essay and she's real quick with that, " said Foster, the anchor on the boys team.

In a worst-case scenario, both relay teams can insert predetermined alternates into the race should one or both fail to arrive on time. If that happens, the day wouldn't be a total loss for Johnson and Foster, both of whom also have qualified for races later in the day.

Terriers boys coach Joe Sipp said ideally, he'd like Foster at the track at least 30 minutes before the relay event so he can warm up properly. Similarly, girls coach Jean Wiser said she'd "rather Johnson not be rushing."

The Terriers boys team, seeded third in its race, won its region in a time of 8:03.46, less than four seconds shy of top-seeded Baker High of Cape Coral. Hillsborough's girls are seeded 11th.

"We told them the state meet is nice, but we do have alternates, " Caruso said. "We wouldn't do as well without them, but the priority of course is with the schooling. Just take care of that and don't purposely rush and we'll deal with whatever time we have.

"Assuming there's no traffic problems, we should do it."

Joey Knight can be reached at (813) 226-3350 or jknight@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Class 3A state track

Where: Showalter Field, Winter Park

When: Today, field events, noon; 4x800-meter relays, 1 p.m.; running event preliminaries, 4 p.m.; running event finals, 7 p.m.

Directions: Take Interstate 4 east to Orlando and get off at Exit 82A. Go 0.6 miles and take the East-West Expressway East exit. Merge onto FL-408-TOLL, go 4 miles and take Exit 14 toward SR-436/Semoran Blvd./International Airport. Quickly merge onto Lake Underhill Road for 0.2 miles and turn left onto FL-436 W./S. Semoran Blvd. Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto Banchory Road. Go 0.4 miles and turn right onto ST Dunston Way. Go 0.2 miles and turn left onto Cady Way.

Admission: $8.

County girls qualifiers:

Julianne Morgan, Plant (high jump); Kaitlyn Ostroski, Plant (high jump); Marissa McElveen, Blake (pole vault); Ashley Wright, Hillsborough (shot put), Megan Fenzau, Brandon (shot put); Myesha Williams, King (shot put); Tanesha Maxwell, Tampa Bay Tech (100 meters); Alyssa Franks, Freedom (1600 meters); Brittany Barton, Jefferson (400 meters); Cheryle McBride, Armwood (300 hurdles); Jennifer Chamblee, Plant (300 hurdles); Kindall Johnson, Hillsborough (800 meters); Megan Thies, Brandon (3200 meters); Wharton, Plant, Hillsborough (4x800 relay); Tampa Bay Tech, Hillsborough (4x100 relay); Teona Rodgers, Wharton (100 hurdles, 200, triple jump); Amani Bryant, Wharton ( long jump); Katrina Skinner, Wharton (1600); Kathia Skinner, Wharton (800); Stephanie Liettero, Wharton (pole vault); Wharton, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Armwood (4x400 relay)

County boys qualifiers:

Anthony Hamill, Plant (pole vault); Thomas Parrott, Plant (pole vault); Anthony Hill, Blake (high jump); Leon Robinson, Tampa Bay Tech (high jump); Terrence Mitchell, Hillsborough (long jump); Keyon Jones, Wharton (long jump, 400); Hillsborough, Wharton (4x800 relay); Tarrell Sampson, Hillsborough (100); Pedro Carello, Wharton (1600, 3200); David Vasquez, Wharton (1600); Hillsborough (4x100); DeWayn Lee, Middleton (400); Mark Williams, Hillsborough (400); Luke Rorech, Plant (300 hurdles); Drew Franklen, Jefferson (300); Kendall Brown, Hillsborough (800); Kevin Williams, Wharton (200); Corey McElveen, Armwood (200); Hillsborough, Wharton (4x400 relay)