Call them the Fab Four of Canyon High School.
Not John, Paul, George and Ringo, but rather Archuleta, Stone, Pennucci and Rudolph.
And their Sprints Coach Eric Johnson loves them yeah, yeah, yeah.
That’s because his 4x100 relay team is going to State at Buchanan High School in Clovis this Friday and Saturday.
Johnson is only 28-years-old, but his focus is on the number 41. As in 41 seconds as a goal for his young relay team.
“Pretty much 41 anything is the deal since the prelims. But 41.6. I don’t know what place that will give us, but 41.6 is my goal for them. It’s our goal and we truly believe we can be there,” said Johnson.
Earlier in the season the Fab Four set Canyon High School and League records with a 42.0. But since hitting that mark they’ve stumbled, literally and figuratively.
“We ran our fastest time 42.0 at the CIF Prelims. At the finals I know we didn’t have a good week of practice. There were things going on like graduation, kids got their yearbooks. It’s just that feeling in the air, it just didn’t feel right.”
But the team got lucky when one of their competitors in a different heat dropped their baton heading for the finish line. Fortunately, the Fab Four’s time was good enough to get them to the next round known as the Masters Meet.
Still the relay team couldn’t quite get things running smoothly.
“Last week at Masters the problem was just that Kenny our second leg left a little early. He had to come to a stop and then start up again. And it’s just hard to run that way.”
They ran a disappointing 42.6.
Johnson says it’s hard to work on the handoffs in practice for a number of reasons.
“One, it’s just hard to run fast period without adrenaline and competition. And two, kids have a tendency when their lanes are full to leave early when they see that someone on outside of them or the inside doesn’t matter, are coming before our guy so they’ll tend to leave early and that just messes everything up. They don’t have that in practice.”
However, luck shined down on the Fab Four once more like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Five relays teams were disqualified or did not finish at the Masters Meet. Some didn’t get their hand offs completed in time, others ran out of their lanes. The Canyon High team who’d tied for sixth place moved up to fourth and qualified for state.
Some might question if the team is deserving to continue on, but consider an Indy car race where the leader crashes and another driver is able to cross the finish line instead. Or in football where a team goes for the winning touchdown, makes the catch, but the receiver is out of bounds. Should they still win? No one would suggest that.
Despite rationlizations Coach Johnson knows his team is lucky and they'd better take advantage of it.
“We haven’t run well, yet. Since the CIF prelims. It took us a little luck to get us here. Let’s not squander the opportunity.”
Johnson gave a profile of each of his runners in order of the photo left to right:
"Kenny is a senior. Hard worker. Really hard worker. Just gets on the line and does what he needs to do. And it shows in his meets. Every time he runs he’s pretty much running a PR.
"Max is our starter. He definitely has, in my opinion, the best start on our team -- in the league. He just has that explosiveness you need in track and field to get the edge at the beginning of the race.
“Dominic is our Freshman phenom. Never seen anything like him. Every time he’s on the track you just know that if we’re close he’s either going to get us ahead or get us right back in the race.
"Darius is our Senior. Extremely talented kid. We’re going to miss him. A good finisher, a good closer."
Johnson was a 2001 graduate of Canyon High School and a track star. He was even coached by the same men he coaches with today: Dave DeLong and Paul Broneer.
"If I ever need advice they're more than willing to help. They’ve been doing it a long time," Johnson said.
Johnson’s sister is the former Alysia Johnson, now Montano after a March wedding to former Canyon football star running back Louis Montano.
She is currently training for the Olympics and according to Johnson holds the fastest American time in the 800 with a time of 1:57.
Johnson say people always ask him who is faster between the two siblings.
“I am,” Johnson says, chuckling. “She’s extremely fast, but there is no way I would let her beat me. Ever. Except in the 2-mile. But even then I think my pride would kick in.”
After the State meet Johnson says he’s going to take a little break, but he’s excited to discover that there are kids who are already eager to get training for next year.
Johnson knows it won’t be Strawberry Fields Forever since Stone and Rudolph are graduating.
He’ll have to find a new Fab Four.