By Rayne Brown
“I always read Psalms 18 before I go out and race,” junior cross country runner Rachel Johnson said. “It talks about God giving us strength. It’s a really good thing to read, I think, just to get focused and just see that I should be running for God and not myself.”
Call it superstition, luck or simply faith, Johnson’s ritual of preparing for a meet has worked.
Johnson was named Big 12 Runner of the Week on Tuesday for the second time this season.
Johnson achieved her latest victory after winning the Iowa Black and Gold Invite Sept. 13, finishing the 4k course in 13:56.28.
This is Johnson’s fourth career conference honor.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “I feel like we train really, really hard in cross country and over the summer there’s not a lot of work that’s seen by a lot of people. It just feels great to be able to be recognized like that and to be able to represent Baylor well.”
Running about 70 miles a week in the Central Texas heat is no easy task. Cross country head coach Todd Harbour said Johnson’s mental capability has a lot to do with her success in running.
“She has a mental toughness about her,” Harbour said. “Whatever is thrown at her, she’s able to handle it.”
Although she’s experienced great success in running, Johnson believes she still has not reached her pinnacle.
“You want to get better and you’ve accomplished something from last season, but you have higher goals you haven’t achieved yet,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to go backwards.”
Johnson’s plan for improvement is simple. She wants to build on the foundation she’s already created and set reasonable goals for herself while trusting her coach.
Johnson has surpassed the number of awards won by any other Baylor cross country runner, male or female.
No matter how much she improves or how many awards she racks up, Johnson takes no credit.
“I just want to give God the glory,” Johnson said. “He gave me this talent to run, so just recognizing that and giving thanks for that.”
Johnson’s success this season is making her goals of being an All-American in college attainable.
“She’s very dedicated and passionate about being great,” Harbour said.
Johnson is aware of her capability and remains confident in her belief that her faith has gotten her this far and will help her continue to excel. She knows she’ll face obstacles in achieving her goal of becoming an All-American.
Johnson said one of the biggest challenges in her sports is “to continue to have a love for running because it’s a hard sport and when you run 70-ish miles a week it’s kind of crazy and hard at times.”
Struggling in a sport is inevitable at one point for every athlete.
Johnson stays positive by remembering her faith and constantly focusing on her dreams and aspirations.
“Just keeping those goals in mind is a big part of achieving the goal,” Johnson said. “When you start struggling in a race, think of everyone you’re running for.”
Baylor cross country next competes at the North Texas Invite on Sept. 28.