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Johnston looks for triple play


Ex-teammates forged NC senior’s improvement

Ben Johnston got into running late, buying into the companionship forged with long workouts. Now the former freshman baseball player is poised to become Spokane’s first triple-crown distance runner in six years.

“I’m glad I got into running because of all the guys. It brings out the (camaraderie),” the North Central senior said. “I have more fun in cross country and track than I did in baseball. I can’t believe how far I’ve come as a runner since my freshman year.”

Johnston won state cross country last fall and has the top times in the 3A 1,600 and 3,200 meters heading into the state track meet that begins today in Tacoma. The last triple winner was Mead’s Evan Garber in 2004.

“I was just trying to keep up with Andy (Kimpel) and Leon (Dean),” he said. “That was my goal every day at practice, see if I could stay with these guys because they set the example.”

Johnston made quick progress.

“My sophomore year, the regional 2-mile, that was kind of the (breakthrough) race,” he said. “I was sitting with them until the last couple of laps. But at that time I knew I had come far enough to stay with them maybe more. The next year cross country was a really big step for me, because they were a lot closer than when I ran cross country my sophomore year.”

So here he is, on the verge of joining an elite group, but not taking anything for granted.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park.”