Fast start: Ballard’s Shewaye Johnson wins the girls’ 3,000 in her first trip to Drake

Joe Randleman
Tri-County Times

Shewaye Johnson was awfully excited to start running in her first trip to the Drake Relays. 

The Ballard sophomore sensation immediately broke out of the pack at the start of the girls’ 3,000-meter run Thursday. Johnson started off so strong it appeared she was overdoing it and could run out of gas in the longest individual race of high school girls’ competition. 

But it was no problem for the 2020 Class 3A girls’ individual state cross country champion. She won the race with a new school-record time of nine minutes, 46.88 seconds, becoming the first Drake Relays champion in the history of Ballard girls’ track. 

Running in her first Drake Relays event, Ballard sophomore Shewaye Johnson on the girls' 3,000-meter run in a school-record time of 9:46.88 Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Johnson won the event by over 12 seconds.

“My goal is to start off fast, keep the pace fast and finish the race,” Johnson said. “I was very comfortable and kept it up.” 

Johnson beat Ankeny’s Lauren McMahon by 12.27 seconds to earn her first white flag at Drake Stadium. Her time is the seventh-fastest in state history. 

“I hate to say it, but I did expect it,” Ballard head coach Scott Barth said. “I said just run your race and you’ll be fine. It’s a special day for Ballard having a Drake Champ for the first time. I’m hoping the younger girls and future runners see that Ballard girls can do that on the big stage.” 

Later in the day, Johnson ran the 1,500 and nearly pulled off the same feat. She had another huge start and led most of the way, but Iowa City Liberty’s Ashlyn Keeney came out of nowhere with an unbelievable kick over the final 300 meters to steal the victory away from Johnson. 

“The 1,500 wasn’t bad – I just started off too fast and she had a really good kick,” Johnson said. “I have to learn how to be able to keep up with them when they do that.” 

Fatigue may have been a factor in the 1,500. In between the 3,000 and 1,500, Johnson ran the second leg in the 4 X 800 relay for Ballard.  

“She definitely ran a gutsy race,” Barth said. “She had a full day winning the 3,000 and running a 2:20 leg in the 4x800. That sets her up for a tough 1,500, but she did really well and went for it. She was disappointed not to win, but she learned and will grow from the experience.” 

Johnson's time in the 1,500 was 4:44.97. Keeney won in 4:39.24.

Johnson’s incredible leg in the 4 X 800 helped the Ballard girls place ninth with a new school-record time of 9:41.68, breaking the old mark of 9:50.24 the Bombers just set a week ago at Ogden. It also enabled the Bombers to move up four spots from their qualifying seed of 13. 

Ballard's Josie Fleischmann runs the anchor leg in the girls' 4 X 800-meter relay during the Drake Relays Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Ballard placed ninth in the event with a school-record time of 9:41.68.

“Shewaye made us all proud to be Bombers today,” Ballard senior runner Caitlin Maher said. “She had quite the challenge being in three distance events. Her hard work in all three is so inspiring to everyone.” 

Maher, Josie Fleischmann and Kate Huisinga ran the other three legs for Ballard in the 4 X 800. All four runners on the team were part of Ballard’s 2019 and 2020 3A state champion cross country teams. 

“I’m so lucky to have these amazing teammates,” Maher said. “I wouldn’t want to spend my last running season any other way.”