Kaneland senior Conor Johnson is bracing for his final competitive run at Elburn Woods Forest Preserve today, as the Knights prepare to host an IHSA Class 2A cross country regional. From there, he and the team hope to advance to next week’s Belvidere Sectional, and then the state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park on Nov. 3. Shaw Media sports reporter Kevin Druley caught up with Johnson for this week’s edition of the Weekend Chit-Chat, discussing Kaneland’s prospects, the Elburn Woods terrain and Johnson’s prospective college major. The following is an edited transcript:
There have been ups and downs, I know, but what’s the overall outlook entering the state series?
We have a lot of potential this year. We’re definitely working hard at these practices and hitting them pretty hard. As long as we stay healthy and keep it up, we feel pretty good about what we can do. ... We’ve been strong the past few years, and it’s been a matter of reloading and getting everyone up to that level and experience.
What did you gain as a freshman runner just accompanying the team to state three years ago?
It was an incredible experience, especially with a great group of seniors that day. It was an awesome, sunny day and it was amazing to meet some people, meet some coaches and get a feel for what that all was like.
By the same token, how advantageous is racing at Detweiller in September in the invite that’s hosted there?
We get to see it before state, which is nice. The warmer weather does play a big factor, but just the feeling of it is a lot different. You get more adrenaline and everything at the state meet, but you still gain something from going beforehand. It helps the kids who haven’t seen the course, and gives the guys who have another look.
What’s out of the ordinary about Elburn Woods or something that sets it apart?
Always for us, that big hill is definitely a challenge. It really stands out, especially for other teams, because they’re not expecting it. ... It’s almost right at the start in the first 800 meters, and it’s a shocker right away. Then you come back at about the mile-and-a-half mark. To me, that just says cross country. It’s kind of cool to overcome that.”
The state series is at least in the back of your minds all season long. How does the mindset change once you actually get there?
You can just tell when we get to the state series. Everyone stays calm and there’s nothing nervewracking. Everyone keeps their cool, everyone can run their race and it helps immensely.
How much time do you give yourself to recoup between cross country and track seasons?
Generally, I’ll take two or three weeks off from cross country to track and around the same thing between track and summer running. But that can be shortened depending on how I’m feeling and what our coach has planned. Generally, I do some biking with it or some light jogs, but a lot of it really is resting your legs and resting up.
You’ve talked about studying psychology in college. What piqued your interest?
Around junior year, it kind of came to me – I realize I just enjoyed that aspect of human interaction and everything that went into it. So ever since then, it’s been something I’ve been looking in to a lot and reading up about.