Kaniya Johnson is a senior at Valdosta Lowndes (GA) High School and a Florida State University signee. And there's no doubt about it: 2022 has been her year. Johnson is currently ranked U.S. No. 3 in the 60m (7.29), No. 2 in the 200m (23.67) and No. 2 in the 300m (37.75). But 2022 has also brought changes. After three successful years in South Carolina, where Johnson picked up 74 wins and three state championships across her outdoor and summer track seasons, her family moved north to Georgia. And yet, the Florida State signee hasn't let change stop her. Here, she writes about what the sport has meant over her career.
"You have to be patient with your craft because it's not going to happen overnight. You need to wait for your moment to shine."
My track and field journey began in South Carolina in 2018.
After completing my first outdoor season with my new high school school, Lexington White Knoll, I met coach Alvarez.
Coach (Alan) Alvarez was not only my coach, but also a great mentor and role model. He molded me into the athlete that I am today. He encouraged me to be a leader and also a role model for my teammates.
He also instilled in me that giving up is not an option. He always said, "The result of hard work equals success."
Which leads to my senior year. This past year, I moved to Georgia with my family. I'm now at Valdosta Lowndes High School.
But first, an aside: My parents are amazing. They are my support system. They play a vital role in my success. They're the reason why I've never given up. The motivation and faith they've had in me has kept me motivated.
They believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. But they also showed me that it is important to have fun while competing.
And during the summer of 2018, I faced my first disappointment.
I did not qualify for the USATF Junior Olympics for any of my events. That included the 100m, 200m and 400m.
At the time, I was very discouraged because I thought I did not have what it take to be successful.
I also felt defeated after my first indoor meet in 2019; I ran a time of 7.97 in the 60m inside the JDL Fast Track in North Carolina. However, I did not give up.
I kept working toward my goal, which was to win the state title during the outdoor season of my freshman year.
And even though those races were a part of my story, I knew something else: With every disappointment, I knew an exciting moment would follow eventually.
A couple of months later, I ended up winning the South Carolina High School League Class 4A 100 meter state championship. I ended up running a PR of 11.66, and then I was runner-up in the 200m with a PR of 24.02.
All these years later, I've learned some lessons.
Track and field isn't about learning how to run faster; to me there's a deeper meaning.
Track and field is my outlet.
I let all my emotions out at the track. It teaches me discipline and how to quickly adapt in situations. I just love this sport.
This right here, where my career is at this point in 2022, shows that diligent work will pay off in the long run.
You have to be patient with your craft because it's not going to happen overnight. You need to wait for your moment to shine. Races are life lessons for you. Learn from your mistakes and realize what you need to work on. You have to learn how to overcome these difficult obstacles to be successful in life.
Also, to be successful you must surround yourself with teammates and friends that are supportive and genuinely care about your well-being.
Being able to have a support system is imperative to having a successful career.
Without my family, friends and coaches, I would not be successful, and I want to thank them all for continuing to motivate and believe in me.
I am grateful and blessed to have the best support system ever!
Lowndes High School, '22
CONTRIBUTE TO THIS SERIES
If you are a track and field athlete or coach interested in contributing to this series at the state or national level, please send your essay to MileSplit USA editor Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to your local MileSplit editor in your respective state.
Read the full series here.