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Bulldogs' Johnson leaves his mark

  • Bulldogs' Johnson leaves his mark
    Copyright 2013
Published June 28. 2013 05:06PM

Caleb Johnson left a mark on the football field at Northern Lehigh this past fall.

In the spring, Johnson did the same as a member of the Bulldogs' track and field team.

Johnson, who was the 2012 TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Year, was the athlete head track coach Mike Lehtonen counted on for points week in and week out this spring.

He played basketball during the winter keeping him in shape for the track season and it paid off.

Caleb went on to medal in the 200 and 400 meters at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg helping him to be named the 2013 TIMES NEWS Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Johnson finished sixth in the Class AA 200-meter finals with a time of 23.06. He picked up a bronze medal in the 400-meters with a time of 50.51. He also qualified for states in the 110 high hurdles, but opted to concentrate on the two sprints giving him a better shot at medaling.

"Caleb was obviously our leader on the guys side," said Lehtonen when asked about his star pupil. "He led us in points and performance with his times and heights. He is a real gamer. When he needed to, he stepped up his performance during a meet and left everything out on the track."

Caleb did much the same on the football field, where he will continue his career on the gridiron and education at Harvard University.

Johnson competed in the 100, 200, 400, 110 high hurdles and high jump at different times this season.

He broke his own record in the 400 meters with a time of 50.19 and set a new mark in the 200 with a time of 22.51.

Throughout his impressive career, Johnson also competed in the 300 hurdles and as a member of the 4x4 relay team.

"He's as humble as it gets," Lehtonen added. "Caleb would help anyone out.

"He'd be the one to help carry the coolers and tent out of the bus and help set everything up. Those are the things that in most years, would be the job of the freshmen to do."

Despite medaling in the 400 at states, Johnson wasn't a big favorite of that event.

"I hate the 400, God I hate the 400," Johnson said when asked what event he liked to compete in the most. "The high jump and the 110 high hurdles, rank up there. I had a really good time with those. I met some real good people like (Brad) Ehret and (Austin) Shupp and everybody up in Palmerton and at Northwestern. They're cool kids."

Johnson and Shupp started what would be a real rivalry in the 110 high hurdles, competing against each other six times.

"It was his best event," Lehtonen chuckled when asked about the 400. "We didn't run him in it at every dual meet. He just ran it in the bigger meets. We worked it in at least once a week and it went well."

Johnson was glad not only to medal at states, but enjoy his final moment competing on the high school level.

""I'm happy with the way I competed at states this year and will always remember the memories," he said. "I think being it was my third year out there, I was kind of more prepared for it. I realized that if I didn't do well, it was the end of the road, so there was kind of some pressure to end on a positive note."

One of the goals Johnson set his sights on was medaling higher in the 400 than he did last year.

"Medaling higher in the 400 was what I was shooting for," he said. "I didn't even know I'd be there in the 200 so that was a plus."

Johnson gave assistant coach Mike Bonner a lot of credit for his success, since he spent most of his time working with him on the hurdles.

"He's become more of a mentor than a coach to me," said Johnson. "Also Coach Lehtonen, who was the head honcho, helped me with the sprints. Coach Oertner also helped me out in the high jump."

Caleb looks all the way back to when he ran track for St. John Neumann in CYO as to when he took an interest in the sport.

"I ran in the CYO meet in seventh and eighth grade, so I was already into it when I got to high school," he noted. "I had an idea from there what events I wanted to compete in, but I've changed quite a bit over the years. I threw the shot put the first couple of years and did the javelin in my first meet as a freshman, but it didn't work out.

"They put me in the 4x4 relay and that worked out a little better, then it was the 400, high jump and hurdles. I was kind of dopey up to about two years ago and then I started running sprints."

If there is one event Johnson will always remember about his track career it's the 400.

"I'll never forget that race," said Johnson. "It's tough and you really have to be ready. With all of the good athletes coming up in the area, it's a tough event."

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