JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Given the determination and competitiveness indicative of a steady rise, Andrew Johnson might very well find himself higher on the podium next year.
Platte County’s continually developing junior long-distance specialist checked off another box with a sixth-place finish in the 3,200 meters on Saturday to close out the Pirates’ two-day trip to the Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championships at Jeffers City High School. He didn’t quite match his school-record time from a week at earlier but became just the second in program history to achieve all-state honors in the state’s largest class.
A year earlier, Chandler Steinmeir placed second in the 300-meter hurdles in Platte County’s first season in Class 5.
Johnson ran another competitive race, following up on a second-place showing in Class 5 District 8 two weeks ago followed with a Class 5 Sectional 4 individual title the weekend before state. He finished the first lap in eighth place, worked as high as fourth and then moved from ninth to sixth on the final lap.
Finishing in 9 minutes, 25.46 seconds, Johnson ran a 1:05.49 split in his final 400 to pass three runners. He erased Nathan Straubel’s prior Platte County school record of 9:22.36 at sectionals when he dropped 19 seconds off of his PR from earlier in the season at 9:18.79.
Johnson’s progression from fall of his freshman year to now can be considered remarkable by almost any measure. He started his cross country career outside of the top-10 in the lineup but earned a spot on a state qualifying team by the end of the season, and he ended a nearly decade-long drought without an all-state runner this past fall.
In track, Johnson went sub-11 minutes in the 3,200 for the first time late in the spring of his freshman year and did not break 10 minutes until the first meet of his junior campaign. He had not advanced out of districts prior to this year before vaulting all the way up to all-state this season.
Johnson even went into the state meet with the top qualifying time out of sectionals thanks to his school record run.
Platte County only brought two events to Licklider Track at Adkins Stadium for state after another difficult qualifying trail in Class 5. The Pirates needed school records to get both Johnson and the 4×400 relay out in the top four of Sectional 4.
However, Platte County’s quartet of senior Aaron Cordova, sophomores Brayden Eschliman and Josh Fraker and freshman Jackson Goodale couldn’t maintain a ridiculous upward trajectory in the postseason. The Pirates went into the second of two heats Friday evening seemingly with a good chance to qualify for Saturday’s final based on recent performances.
Instead, Platte County ended up stuck in seventh and finished seventh out of eighth. The Pirates’ time of 3:28.24 was 15th out of 16 overall and almost 8 seconds off the mark needed to advance and all but guarantee a state medal.
Platte County entered the postseason having rarely used the combination of runners due to various injuries and weather-canceled meets. Cordova hadn’t run track since middle school, having played soccer for the Pirates as a freshman before moving away to pursue soccer in St. Louis but returning this year and going out for track to become an immediate impact runner. Eschliman and Fraker have been the top 400 runners for the program but likely have only started to scratch the surface of their potential, while Goodale seemingly came out of nowhere to anchor the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays by the end of his debut campaign.
At sectionals, Platte County finished third with a school-record of 3:21.62, erasing a Class 4 state medal-winning mark of 3:23.95 set by Aaron Brown, Mateo Tania, Kevin Schultz and Aliek Reed in 2014. The Pirates cut 5 seconds from early in the season at districts and then exactly 4 more seconds at sectionals in a stunning progression. The school record time would have placed second in Saturday’s final, won by Sectional 4 champion Liberty North in 3:19.33.
Platte County also did this with junior Connor Currence, an expected top contributor, unavailable after a foot stress fracture ended his season.