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Bob Johnson



One of the greatest sprinters in South Dakota high school track history, the 1938 Washington High grad held the state record at three distances. "In the fall of 1934 as a freshman I went out for football," Johnson recalled. "I was with C.R. Beck over at the other end of the field in about the fourth week of practice. During a scrimmage, I broke around end for a touchdown and (coach Howard) Wood saw it all. 'Who are you?' he yelled and then he recognized me. He didn't want me out for football, so he took my gear from me and that was the end of my football. I really wanted to play, but I guess he saw a better future for me in track." Johnson set state records at 100 yards (10.0), 220 (21.2), 220 straight (21.1), 440 one-turn (49.5) and 440 two-turn (49.6). At Washington, he never lost a race - relay or individual - to a South Dakota runner. He won the 100 and 220 and anchored the winning 440 and 880 relays at the 1937 state meet, and he won the 100, 220 and 440 at the 1938 state meet. Washington won the state title both years. At that time the state meet was all one class, not the three-class event we have today. Johnson's 440 record stood for almost 40 years. The 220 time of 21.2 in 1937 is (as of 2008) still the fastest ever run by a South Dakota prep. It was the fastest by a U.S. schoolboy that year. At Minnesota, Johnson anchored the Gophers' mile-relay team to victory in the Texas Relays, Kansas Relays and Drake Relays when he was a junior and senior. His mile-relay team also won the Big Ten title when he was a junior and senior. A member of the Howard Wood Dakota Relays board for 53 years, Johnson was the third person inducted into the Relays Hall of Fame (behind Joe Mendel and Weert Engelmann).












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