090430 Lacey Dykes - Sports

James Neiss/staff photographer Sanborn, NY - Lacey Dykes of NFHS track fame.

Niagara Falls’ 400-meter specialist Cordell Johnson was running mid-50s last spring. In sneakers.

Put on a new pair of track spikes courtesy of his girlfriend, Victoria Gray, and Johnson is now running low-50s and shooting up the list of the area’s top quarter-milers.

“I guess I’m performing better with the spikes this year,” Johnson said with a chuckle.

While NFHS coach Jon Robins agrees the spikes are a big help, he’s been most impressed with Johnson’s work ethic.

“He’s very competitive and he works extremely hard because he wants to be the best,” the coach said.

Becoming the best hasn’t been easy, though.

Johnson planned to join his friends as a part of the modified track program in the seventh grade before a heart murmur sent him to the hospital before the school year.

“I couldn’t do any sports,” he said. “It was a lot of hospital visits and doctor appointments. It was tiring really. I was frustrated.”

Finally — almost a year later, doctors cleared Johnson to resume normal activities, including any and all sports. He played football that fall and joined the track program in the spring.

“It was exciting just to be back with my friends,” he said.

Johnson was a sprinter in eighth grade before former Falls track and field coach Sam Giancola suggested he give the mid-distance events a try. Since then, Johnson has taken off, becoming the Wolverines’ top mid-distance runner.

Johnson’s times in the 400 this spring have also put him among the top competitors in the area.

“I believe I have a good chance to win NFLs if I stay healthy and keep practicing really hard,” Johnson said.

Robins agreed.

“I expect his times to come down even lower as the season progresses,” the coach said while pointing out that Johnson already has one of the top times in Western New York this season.

“Really, the sky is the limit for him. As long as he keeps working at it and continues to mature, he has the potential to be the top-notch 400 and 800 guy in Western New York.”

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.


• SCHOOL: Niagara Falls

• SPORT: Boys Track

• GRADE: Sophomore

• EVENTS: 400, 800, 1,600 relay

• COACH’S QUOTE: “He wants to be the best.”

— Jon Robins