Ingrid Johnson developed into a top distance runner for the Staples cross-country and track teams.

Her success with the Lady Wreckers earned her an opportunity to run for the Johns Hopkins University cross-country and track teams. Johnson is currently running for the Lady Blue Jays cross-country team.

"I'm really excited to be running for Hopkins," Johnson said. "I hope that my times will improve a lot during my four years there, and that I can help the team in middle distance events."

A 12-season varsity letter winner in four different sports, Johnson appeared to have a promising career as a soccer midfielder, but turned out to be an even better distance runner. She was at or near the top of the pack in distance events for track freshman and sophomore years for Staples and was its top cross-country runner and distance-event performer in track junior and senior years.

"I think working hard and keeping a positive attitude about the sport really impacted the way I ran," Johnson said. "All of the coaches I've had the past four years also helped me develop and improve as a runner and I really appreciate all of the help they have given me as an athlete."

Johnson's all-around success earned her the Westport News' Staples Female Athlete of the Year award.

"I was definitely surprised to be nominated as athlete of the year because there are so many talented and deserving athletes in our grade," Johnson humbly said.

Experiencing success all three seasons made a difference for Johnson. Moreover, she set seven Staples records in track and makes her teammates better. She set the school record in the 600-meters, 800-meters, 4x400-meter relay team and sprint medley relay team in indoor track and in outdoor track, she set the school record in the 4x400, 4x800-meter relay and distance medley relay. ESPN dyestat put her in its elite 100.

All three teams recognized her success and she was the Lady Wreckers' Block S MVP in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track this year and Block S MVP in cross country junior year.

"We accomplished a lot because of Ingrid," Staples girls track coach Jesse McCray said. "We had seven girls qualify for New Englands because of her and she's a major reason for our success."

Although Johnson is a top performer, she remains humble about her success.

"Ingrid's just a great all-around kid and a mature young lady with all-around talent," Lady Wreckers cross-country coach Kristin Simonsen said. "She's a humble kid and you'd never know she'd stand out [because she's modest about her success]."

No one foresaw her journey into running. Once Johnson first experienced it, she found her niche.

"Freshman year, I wanted to play soccer year-round, but my parents really encouraged me to do indoor track," Johnson said. "However, throughout the indoor season I came to enjoy the sport, and signed up for outdoor track too. Before track, I had never participated in another sport besides soccer, so it was really nice to be a part of a new type of team."

Shortly after she stepped on the track, Johnson saw the 400 meters, 600 and 800 were her favorite events and she excelled in them.

"I ran the 400, 600, and the 800, and trained with long-sprinting/middle distance," Johnson recalled. "I liked how these events were neither sprinting events nor long distances, and I thought they played to my strengths."

Junior year, Johnson decided to focus on running all three seasons and gave up soccer so she could join the cross-country team. The change worked well for her even though Staples soccer lost a solid player.

"It was really tough to give up soccer, but I think the switch to cross-country really helped me in track," Johnson said. "Although I do miss soccer a lot, the benefits of switching definitely helped me achieve my goals in track, and cross-country kept me in shape even before the indoor season started."

Performing cross-country distances was challenging because they were much longer than the longest track event but Johnson transitioned well into the more grueling race. After cross-country ended, she then had to transition back to the shorter track distances, which she also successfully met head-on.

"Running cross-country was definitely an adjustment to me, as I went from running the 5,000 meters to running distances as short as the 400," Johnson said. "However, as soon as the indoor season started we focused more on the shorter races, because I'm definitely not a 5,000 type of runner."

Being the team player Johnson is, choosing between individual events and relays is easy for her.

"I like relays better because you're directly able to experience success as one single unit," Johnson said. "If we run well, it's nice to share that excitement with three other teammates. Running relays incorporates another sense of teamwork that you don't get running an individual race, which I found really motivating. For example, I found being able to share All-FCIAC with three other teammates much more rewarding and exciting than being All-FCIAC individually."

Leadership is a strength of Johnson's, who served as captain for the indoor and outdoor track teams. She mostly led by example through her work ethic.

"Obviously, she's talented, but as talented as she is, she works very hard," McCray said. "The effort she gives in practice translates into her success. Her presence gives everyone else confidence, which is a sign of a good leader."

Academically, Johnson excelled as well and was the Staples Female Scholar-Athlete award recipient.

"I feel honored to have received various scholar athlete awards, especially the CIAC Scholar Athlete Award," Johnson said. "It was nice to have my hard work, both on the track and during school, acknowledged."

AP environmental science is her favorite subject. Johnson's ability to balance her schoolwork with her running, helped.

"I think being part of a sport year round made the balance a little easier," Johnson said. "Running all three seasons helped me develop a more efficient daily routine, so that I was never really caught up between school and sports."

At Hopkins, Johnson knows she'll have to raise her performance because the competition will be much stronger.

"I'll need to adjust to a new coach and a new routine to succeed at the college level," Johnson said. "If I can be flexible and maintain a positive attitude as I come into a new program, I think that eventually, I can be a successful college runner."

Her former coaches are confident she can do it.

"I think she'll do well," Simonsen said. "She takes good direction from the coaches."

McCray said, "Ingrid will do well, her coaches will love her and her teammates will love her."