Quaker Valley’s Nora Johns wins state gold in 1st year running 300 hurdles

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Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 11:28 AM


SHIPPENSBURG — Nora Johns ran the 300 hurdles for the first time this spring, and the Quaker Valley sophomore can remember the thoughts running through her head at the time.

“I was like, I just hope to make it to the finish line,” Johns said with a laugh.

Two months later, she crossed a finish at line again Friday, this time to win the state title in the 300-meter hurdles at the PIAA Class AA track and field championship. If someone had predicted that outcome in March, she wouldn’t have believed them.

“No way man. That’s not realistic at all. This is my first year,” said Johns, who previously ran only the 100-meter hurdles. “There are people who maybe are seniors, and they’ve been doing this all four years and have so much more experience than I do.

“I would never have believed it.”

Johns crossed the finish line in 45.07 seconds, or nearly seven-tenths of a second ahead of Wilmington’s Lindsey Martineau. Her winning time was within a few hundredth of the personal-best 45.01 she ran a week earlier to win the WPIAL title.

Her state championship race wasn’t without drama. A runner in an adjacent lane fell.

“I noticed it because her hurdle almost fell into my lane,” she said. “A part of me was saying maybe I should help her, but I knew I just had to stay in my lane and do my thing.”

Johns is a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and soccer. The Quakers basketball team reached the WPIAL finals this winter with Johns in the lineup.

She’s run club track since age 10 but always stuck to the 80- and later 100-meter hurdles.

“My coach and my dad both said, you have the endurance for (the 300s),” she said. “You do soccer and stuff, and you’re pretty good at hurdles, so if you just combine the two maybe you’d be pretty good.”

That was an understatement.

Now, she’s wondering just how low her times might go if she dedicates herself to the 300s. She’s hoping for times in the 44- or 43-second range next season. With two seasons left, she’s not ruling out a run at the WPIAL championship record of 43.54. The PIAA meet record is 41.60.

“If I put more time and focus on this event rather than just doing hurdle drills all the time — focus on steps and speed — I think I could get a lot better,” Johns said.

She also ran the 100-meter hurdles at states but didn’t reach the final.

“It’s completely different,” Johns said of the 300s. “It’s a sprinting race, but it’s more running than it is hurdling.”

Does she now like the 300s better?

“Maybe,” she said with a smile. “I just liked the 100 because it’s shorter, but the 300, I think I’m better at.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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