NRHS’ Johnson has a need for speed

Published 7:50 pm Saturday, March 8, 2014

Speedster: Nansemond River High School sophomore Brandeé Johnson's updated status as three-time state champion helped earn her Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week honors. (Toy Redding Photo)

Speedster: Nansemond River High School sophomore Brandeé Johnson’s updated status as three-time state champion helped earn her Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week honors. (Toy Redding Photo)

‘Changing the program’

Nansemond River High School’s Brandeé Johnson was remarkable as a freshman in track and field, and her sophomore indoor season simply fostered more of the amazing.

On March 1, she won the Virginia High School League Group 4A state championship in the 300-meter dash with a time of 39.06 seconds. Then, at the end of the tiring day during which she placed highly in several events, she won again in a relay event.

“After my 300, I did surprise myself in the 4×400,” she said, running her second-best time ever to anchor the team en route to a winning time of 4:02.66.

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Her heroics led to her election as the winner of the Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week poll.

But earning big wins on the track is not new for Johnson. She earned her first state title last year in the old Group AAA classification with Nansemond River’s indoor 4×200-meter relay team. And back in 2010 at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics, she won the outdoor 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.

Warriors coach Justin Byron has high hopes that Johnson will join some elite company with Florida State’s Michael Cherry, who ran the fastest high school indoor 300-meter dash in American history; Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kiara Porter, who won a gold medal for the U.S. team at the 2012 World Junior Championships; and the University of Virginia’s Andrea Wright, who ran the fastest indoor 200-meter time in all of Virginia and set the facility record for the 300-meter dash at a state championship venue.

“Brandee, as a 15-year-old, is already in the same conversation as those athletes,” Byron said.

She picked up track and field in sixth grade while living in Virginia Beach. Before then, her dad’s military job moved her and the family to England for three years.

In England, she learned and played a variety of sports, including rugby; cricket; netball, which she described as a form of basketball; and rounders, which she said was a mixture of golf and baseball.

“Doing all the sports — it helped me have more strength and then keep up my endurance,” she said. “I was able to transfer that over” to track and field.

Byron said running is in Johnson’s genes.

“Her central nervous system is wired to run,” he said. “She likes to go fast, and she’s genetically wired to go fast.”

He also said she is extremely coachable. “She’s going to listen and hang on to every word,” he said.

Furthermore, Byron said, much like Cherry, Porter and Wright, Johnson feels a need to continually improve.

While some kids would love to skip out on practice, missing a workout is a form of punishment to Johnson, one he has utilized when her grades were lacking.

“I feel like if I train more than my competitors, then I’ll be ahead of the game,” she said.

“There’s a lot of athletes that want to be great that don’t understand the sacrifice that it takes,” Byron said. “Brandeé needs to be great.”

“I feel like what drives me is my sacrifice,” Johnson said, adding that sacrifices by others have fueled her, as well. Her coach devises ways to develop her along; her brother, Zander Redding, tries to come to every meet in support; her mother, Toy Redding, records all her races; and her father, Eddie Redding, comes from work in Washington, D.C. to watch and support her.

“What she’s doing is changing the program,” Byron said. Similar to Shakeela Saunders, “She is making track and field attractive at Nansemond River, so we’re starting to get more people out.”