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Lofty to say the least

Published Sep. 2, 2005

Garrett Johnson wants to throw a discus 200 feet, 6 inches.

It sounds like the easiest thing in the world to someone unfamiliar with track and field. Take a couple of spins in a cement circle, release a rubber Frisbee-looking thing and watch it flutter. When it hits the ground, judges with little flags and measuring tape will mark the spot.



That's why when one talks of the goals Johnson has set for himself this season it is necessary to provide some context.

What the Tampa Baptist senior wants to do is basically stand in the end zone at Raymond James Stadium. The end zone with the pirate ship, let's say.

He wants to go through the technique he has been honing for seven years and he wants to throw his 1.6 kilogram (3.52-pound) discus past midfield to about the 35-yard line.

If he does that, not only would Johnson set a state record, he would become the first Florida high-schooler since Dock Luckie in 1977 to break 200 feet.

"That's one of my goals," Johnson said. "I want to win state and I want to set the state record in the shot put and discus."

Johnson stunned onlookers at the Ed Wells Invitational on Tuesday in Clearwater when he recorded a discus throw of 192-5 to easily win the event. The throw was a personal best, bettering his previous mark by more than 8 feet.

"It was really surprising to me," Johnson said. "That throw didn't embody what I thought a good throw would be. I thought I would be pulling with all my strength, but this throw just kind of floated out of my hand.

"I just had a pretty good day. Hopefully it will go that way the rest of the season."

But the state records aren't the only thing this United States Amateur Track and Field Verizon All-American has on his mind.

As he breaks down tapes frame by frame of Olympians John Godina and Adam Nelson, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Johnson dreams of putting the state record as far out of reach as possible.

"My ultimate goal this season is 220 feet," Johnson said. "I know it's a big goal and lofty challenge but that's what I want to do and who's going to say I can't do it?"

Johnson seems unfazed by the fact he's 8 feet short of the state record, not to mention 28 feet short of his ultimate goal.

"Eight feet in discus is nothing," he said.

"It's something you can conquer in a matter of minutes or something you may never conquer in your career. It's all about the work you put into it."

Work is not something Johnson has ever shied away from.

He and his father, Nate, who is the throwers coach at Tampa Baptist and helps out at Hillsborough, work on something discus- or shot put-related every day.

Whether it's working out or throwing or watching film of Garrett or watching film of other people, the discus and shot put play major roles in their daily routines.

"There are two reasons for his success," Nate Johnson said. "He's on a very rigid weight-training program all year round and he works on his technical work. Footwork, body position. We probably watch two to three hours of film every week."

The results are top three finishes in the state the past three years, including last season's state championship. He also has attained All-America status.

Off the field, he works just as hard, completing enough dual-enrollment classes at Hillsborough Community College to enter Florida State next year with 24 credits, enough to qualify as a sophomore.

As a Seminole, he will join older brother, Marqus, who won the ACC discus title last year as a freshman.

He will also be close enough to the state capitol to work as an intern and augment the political science degree he hopes to earn.

"I really think I made the right decision just because of the security I feel when I'm up there in Tallahassee," Johnson said. "Of course, having my brother there helps too."