By Cory Mull, Milesplit
Cha'iel Johnson had one thing on her mind with 200 meters to go.
"I knew I was in trouble," she said. "I had to go."
And off the Miami Gardens Xpress Track Club 12-year-old athlete went, pushing toward a new personal record time of 2:13.72 in the 800m at the AAU Junior Olympic Championships in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was her third straight championship -- she won the 400m in 2015 and the 800m in 2016.
She was just 0.43 seconds away from a setting a new AAU national record in the race.
"In my mind I was going for the record," she said. "I had to fight hard, finish hard and get out."
The race wasn't in the bag, however, until Johnson shifted into a final gear in the last 200m as one final surge came from Serenity Brazell, of Tampa, Florida.
"I have a lot of heart," Johnson said. "I do my races with my heart. I just know I can win it and stuff like that. I do it for my parents, my coaches, my sisters and my brothers and my whole team."
Johnson ultimately bested her previous best of 2:14.80, which she set at the AAU National Club Championships from July 9-15 in Florida.
But the 12-year-old said she was motivated from the start. She said her father, NFL alum Chad Johnson, offered encouragement from the gun.
"He was like, 'Hey Mo!'" she said.
Her coach, Darius Lawshea, told her "to pull the trigger," Johnson said, "which means go hard and fight hard."
Ultimately, it was one of the best days of Johnson's still growing athletic career.
"Biggest day and biggest race of my life," she said.
Afterward, Johnson kept dreaming big.
"I'm running college times," she said. "I'm faster than some of the college girls. I'm trying to go after Raeyvn Rogers' record and Daesha Rogers."
Daesha Rogers' 13-year-old record of 2:07.65.
- Chaiel Johnson Athlete Profile
- Chad Johnson talks about his daughter
- Cha'iel Johnson living up to the hype
- Daughter of NFL Great Forging New Path