Cavalier Corner

August 2021

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AUGUST 2021 29 cavalier profile DEREK JOHNSON Third-Year • Track & Field While Michaela Meyer grabbed the headlines for the UVA women's track and field program, winning the 800 meters at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Derek Johnson quietly put together a similar storyline for the men's team. A third-year computer science major, Johnson was not able to compete outdoors in 2020 due to the pandemic. His body of work dated back to 2019 when he placed 17th at the ACC Out- door Championships in the steeplechase and clocked a season- best time of 9:14.03. To start the 2021 outdoor season, he showed considerable im- provement, running 8:51.97 in his first meet and subsequently topping that mark three more times on the way to earning first-team All-America honors by placing seventh at the NCAA Championships with a time of 8:32.95. But he wasn't done yet. Johnson ran 8:32.00 at a last-chance meet just two days after his race at the NCAA Championships to qualify for the U.S. Olym- pic Trials, where he finished 15th. "I was talking to Coach [Vin Lananna] after that first race of the year and he said, 'I've had guys in the past that started their season at 8:51 and ended up at the Olympic Trials — and there's no reason you can't do it. You just have to believe that you can do it and do the work,'" Johnson said. "As crazy as it might have seemed, I really do think I had it in the back of my head all of that time that I'm good enough to do this, at least my coach thinks I am." Johnson has his sights in 2022 on a return trip to Hayward Field at Eugene, Ore., where the NCAA Championships and U.S. Trials took place. It will also be the site of the World Championships and U.S. Trials for that event next summer. "As soon as I finished the trials, I was just thinking, 'I can't wait to be back here again next year for the World Championships,'" Johnson added. This is one Cavalier you'll want to keep an eye on in the year ahead. — Jim Daves Photo by Jim Daves/courtesy UVA

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