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March 15, 2013

Viking runner Brianna Johnson signs with South Carolina-Upstate

VALDOSTA — Brianna Johnson has always wanted to live in South Carolina. Come August, the Lowndes senior will get that chance when she joins the cross country team at the University of South Carolina-Upstate.

 “I just love South Carolina and I just want to be close to my family up there,” Johnson said.

Born in Lowndes County, Johnson will get the opportunity to experience a new environment in college. USC-Upstate is located in Spartanburg, S.C.

Along with the location, Johnson said the coaches at Upstate made her feel comfortable and she could tell the excitement around the program was high.

“The coach was just so excited about the program,” she said. “I loved his enthusiasm.”

At Lowndes, Johnson was a two-year member of the cross country team, helping the team win the region championship this year, even though she was injured at the end of the season.

This spring, she will also run track for the first time in her high school career.

While she has yet to compete for the track team, Johnson said she will run in the 1-mile event, with her goal time being 6:10.

“I just basically want to finish out the season and keep running,” Johnson said.

Head coach Antonio Wesley said she will also help in the two-mile run.

“She is going to help us in the mile and two mile,” Wesley said. “She will run the two mile in some events because you can run two events. I think her strong suit will be the mile. She is coming off a foot injury in cross country season, but she is back healthy now.”

Through her time at Lowndes, Johnson said she has been able to grow and develop her skills.

“It has been amazing,” she said. “Coach Jodi (Harbin), Coach Rusty (Jones) and Coach Wesley have been really good in helping me get to where I am today. ...We have a great team. We are all very close. They definitely push me.”

Johnson was the second Lowndes girls runner to sign a college scholarship this year. Last month, senior Megan Charbeneau signed a scholarship with the University of Georgia in Athens.

“It feels amazing,” Wesley said. “We have been blessed with some great talents. We are trying to get them ready, for the ones that want to go run in college. A lot of our girls do want to run in college. They just love it.”

USC-Upstate is a Division I-FCS program and competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Spartan program finished ninth in the 5K conference meet last season and finished 35th out of 37 in the regional meet.

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