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Marble Falls runner Tess Johnson back on course and more determined

Marble Falls High School senior runner Tess Johnson holds the school record for the three miles at 19 minutes 19.40 seconds. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro


MARBLE FALLS — Running might be a punishment in other sports, but not to Marble Falls High School senior cross-country team member Tess Johnson.

“You’d go off and run on your own,” she said. “But in cross country and track, it’s all on you. You’re out there on your own. You have to learn to push yourself.”

Johnson had to do that on her own in the fall and the spring. During the track season in the spring, she watched her teammates win four consecutive meets, including the District 25-4A and Area 25 and 26-4A crowns while she worked her way back from a severe leg injury.

“It was heartbreaking to stay out of track season,” she said. “You realize how much it means. Athletes say injuries make you stronger. I’m ready to get out and compete.”

Johnson will get her chance at 8 a.m. Oct. 23 when Marble Falls competes at the District 25-5A cross-country meet at Old Settler’s Park, 3300 Palm Valley Blvd. in Round Rock.

While getting healthy again, Johnson used some of the lessons she learned along the way.

“It’s now or never,” she said. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have to learn to be uncomfortable. Running is not a comfortable thing.”

Those words are said by head cross-country coach and distance running coach Anthony Torns, who constantly asks his athletes: “Are you willing to go the extra mile?”

What Johnson loves most about running has little to do with the goals set before her or the number of repetitions in the weight room or even her willingness to endure the hills, gravel or weather during meets.

Rather, it’s about being mentally tough enough to push the pace of the race and then focused enough to continue setting that pace when every runner is trying to do the same.

She smiled when asked if the average fan can truly appreciate how challenging it is to see a distance runner find another gear down the stretch for wins.

“I don’t think you can ever appreciate it until you actually do it,” she said. “I don’t I have anything left, but I have to have something left. It’s painful, and it hurts. But you have to have the mindset in every race to leave it all.”

The daughter of Bruce and Debby Johnson wants to become a sports physical therapist. Johnson is a fraternal twin to sister Maddie, a member of the volleyball and track teams. Maddie is a sprinter. Tess said the best part of being a twin is she always has a friend. The two have an older sister, Jane, who was a member of the Starlettes dance team.

Tess said the only drawback to being a cross-country runner is missing parts of the Marble Falls football games. Athletes have to rest their legs and get enough sleep to compete at their best. Runners are no exception.

When Torns couldn’t attend practices, he put Johnson in charge. She said she enjoyed knowing the coach trusted her enough to get practices going and that her teammates worked hard even in Torns’ absence.

“They always give me a hard time, but I think they enjoyed it,” she said with a grin. “I at least let them get some water.”

Marble Falls is a member of District 25-5A, which is considered to be the top division in the state. The state winner is usually from the district and turns in times that are the best in any class. So setting a new personal best throughout the season happens quite often.

“Getting a personal record is such a great feeling,” Johnson said. “If I can get a (personal record), that’s all I can do. It’s rewarding.”

But that’s not to say the Mustangs have conceded the district championship or playoff berths to their opponents.

Johnson said one of her goals is for the entire team to run at the Class 4A Region IV Meet, noting some of her teammates have done that in the past.

“That means we have to work a lot harder,” she said. “What I don’t like is when losing people make excuses. The more you put into it, the more you work at it. … We’re all going to have to have will power to go with them when they take off.”