Southview junior Malcolm Johnson, center, wins the 100-meter dash ahead of teammate Jeremy Cook, left, and Liberty Benton’s Chase Cook at the Clay Invitational. Johnson is aiming for a third straight sweep of the 100 and 200 at the NLL meet.
Southview juniors Malcolm Johnson and J.J. Pinckney are built differently.
Johnson is compact and chiseled. Pinckney is lean, but muscular.
But they share some common characteristics as top track athletes — winning on a routine basis.
Johnson is a two-time Northern Lakes League champion in three events.
Pinckney is the NLL’s defending champion in the 400 meters and also a former league long-jump champion.
The dynamic duo are hoping to ignite the Cougars to a third straight championship a Friday’s league meet at Maumee.
“When you got two kids like that leading your team into the league meet, I don’t know if you’ll ever have a better one-two punch to lead you,” Southview coach Lee Boyer said.
They are not only two of the league’s top competitors, but rate among the state’s best.
Johnson has won the 100 and 200 the last two years at the league meet. He won the 100 with a time of 11.14 seconds and the 200 in 22.59 last season.
“I expect to win the 100 and 200, that’s my expectation,” Johnson said.
Johnson was also a member of the 400 relay team that finished first two straight years, winning with a time of 43.59 last season, narrowly missing the meet record of 43.50 set by Northview in 2001. Johnson ran anchor on a team that included Keith Gilmore, Jeremy Cook, and Christian Rupe.
Southview junior J.J. Pinckney has a long jump of 23 feet, 8.5 inches this season, one of the best in Ohio. Pinckney is the NLL defending champion in the 400 meters and won the long jump as a freshman.
Johnson hasn’t lost an individual finals race this season, going undefeated in the 100 and 200. He’s coming off an impressive showing at the Clay Eagles Invitational, where he swept the two sprint events and ran anchor for a triumphant 400 relay team that included Gilmore, Cook, and Keith Caldwell. They finished with a time of 44.58 on a rainy and windy evening.
Johnson isn't turning in times quite as fast as he ran during this stage a year ago when he set an Eagles Invitational meet record in the 200 at 22.32. He posted a time of 23.38 in the event this year.
Yet, there’s reason for him perhaps being off a step. He suffered a shoulder injury during the football season, and the approach was to bring him along gradually during the spring.
Boyer said there was no need to rush him during the early weeks of the season.
“We haven’t run him a whole bunch this year,” Boyer said. “He’s just starting to come into his own.
“With your sprinters — loading them up three to four events per meet — sometimes the wheels fall off, so we try not to beat them up too much all year.”
Boyer believes Johnson’s best days are ahead of him because he’s dedicated to the sport, and the classroom. Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Brown have already expressed interest in the honor student choosing their campuses to participate in track or football.
“He’s usually the last one at practice to leave the track,” Boyer said. “He’s self-disciplined. He works hard and does what we ask for him to do. When I look at him in track there’s nothing he can’t do.”
Much of the same can be said for Pinckney, who has also been dominant.
Pinckney is the defending league champion in the 400 (49.23) and won the league long jump title as a freshman with an effort of 21 feet, 3¾ inches. He’s already produced a long jump this spring of 23-8½, among the top efforts in Ohio.
His goals go beyond the league meet, and he figures to a contender at the state meet. He’s pursuing Southview’s long jump record of 24-1, set by Shaun Joplin in 2009.
“If you would have told me that record would be in jeopardy of being broken, I would have just laughed,” Boyer said.
Pinckney is also chasing the school’s 400 record of 48.35 set in 2009 by his older brother, Bernard, who is a student at Ohio State University.
"We’ve been talking about that record ever since the day he [Bernard] got the record," said Pinckney, whose first name is Jenard but prefers to be called J.J. "My brother has supported me and believes I should break his record. He always pushes me and gets on me when I don’t run my best."
Like Johnson, J.J. has already begun to receive attention from colleges. He’s received offers to either play football or run track from about 10 universities, including a number of Mid-American Conference schools and Boston College.
With still another year to go, Johnson and Pinckney have plenty of time on their side to get even better.
“Having both competing for this program has been amazing,” Boyer said.