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SPOTLIGHT
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Cardinal standouts change minds on college

Published on -4/12/2012, 10:19 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Wichita State University, a solid NCAA Division I cross country and track and field program, had long recruited Plainville standout distance runner Brady Johnson. However, Johnson wanted to have a scholarship where he didn't have to worry about debt after college.

At first, Johnson didn't receive the scholarship he was hoping for and signed with Allen County Community College.

Then, Wichita State offered more after Johnson's excellent indoor season and the senior recently inked a letter of intent with the Shockers.

"I think I will really enjoy it down there," Johnson said.

Jameson Klein, a Hays Daily News Super 11 lineman and the defending Class 2A state discus champion for the Cardinals, had a similar experience. He originally signed with Dodge City Community College for football and track.

Coach Bill Griffith recruited Klein to Dodge City. Griffith was an assistant football coach and was also going to coach the throwing events. Then, Griffith left and went to NCAA Division II Fort Lewis (Colo.) College.

"He was a really cool guy," Klein said. "I really liked him."

The day Klein signed with Dodge, he talked with a Fort Hays State University coach and eventually switched to the Tigers. Klein will compete only in track for FHSU.

"It was pretty good," Klein said of Fort Hays' offer. "Probably too good to give up."

Klein's decision ended several months of figuring out a college.

He would often sit in school and think about his college decision.

At first, Klein was going to join his high school teammate, Andrew Casey, on the gridiron with DCCC, an improving program. Casey will still go to Dodge City, but Klein switched.

The Tigers have produced multiple All-Americans in the throws in the last several years under well-respected throwing coach Andreas Maheras. Several of the top throwers are from the area, including Logan's Tim McElroy, nationally ranked in the hammer throw.

"I am happy with Fort Hays," Klein said. "It doesn't get much better. You get most of your college paid for. You won't be in debt for the rest of your life. You'll have a good experience. Fort Hays is a great school. They have been good at throwing the past years, they have a great throwing coach."

Johnson, the defending Class 2A cross country and 3,200-meter champion, originally looked to go to Allen County for a year in hopes of earning All-American honors, then transferring to a major Division I school like Arkansas or Oklahoma State.

Johnson believed his performance in the indoor season likely helped with the Shockers. Johnson went to the AAU Indoor national in Bloomington, Ill., and Johnson ran 8 minutes, 54.15 seconds in the 3,000-meter run. He was three seconds faster than the record set by Ryan Shay, who went on to be a nine-time All-American and a world class marathon runner.

Johnson called breaking the record "special," because the Saucony Shay XC cross country spikes that he'd wore the last few years were actually named after Shay, who passed away in 2007.

"That's how I knew who he was and it was kind of an honor to break it," Johnson said. "That was probably the highlight on my winter, but I knew I wasn't satisfied, because I knew that I had a big outdoor season to go with. Hopefully I can run a lot faster."

Wichita State cross country and assistant track coach Kirk Hunter respected Johnson's choice to go to Allen County, but about a week after the national meet Hunter met with Johnson again. Hunter had spoken with Steve Rainbolt, the Shockers' director of track and field and cross country.

They were able to get Johnson more money. Johnson isn't receiving a full ride, but with some academic money and grants, he will likely have to pay only $500 a year.

That could lower even more. Johnson is still waiting on some general scholarship money. As well, WSU will raise its scholarship if Johnson hits certain times this spring and in college. Johnson liked that the Shockers never decrease their scholarship, too.

"I ended up getting more money that I thought," Johnson said. "The scholarship was hard to turn down for the really good track program they have down there... They are really honest and really good people down there."

Johnson went down to WSU again to job shadow Hunter and was able to spend more time with the coach and team.

"I kind of just fell for it," Johnson said. "Everyone who I have talked to as said that Coach Hunter is a really good guy and I think he is a good guy and I think he will work with me really well and I think I can be really competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference and hopefully help out my team next year, hopefully maybe be a scorer, but I think it's just going to be fun down there. Just the four-year schools have a lot more perks than two years. I think was the best fit for me."

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