Johnson tries to heat up the track in Calif.

Track and Field Clipart

Track and Field Clipart

SACRAMENTO -- OK, there wasn't any ice on the track, and no one was measuring the wind-chill factor, but cold is a relative term.

Just ask Albany's Ashley Johnson, whose chances at the U.S.A. Track and Field National Junior Olympics had a chilly start on Tuesday.

"I've never run in anything like that,'' said Johnson, one of 20 members of the Albany Ruff Riders Track Club who are in Northern California this week for the National Junior Olympics.

"It was cooold,'' she said. "It is so cold in California. I'm not used to that. I'm used to Georgia weather.''

Still, Johnson managed to finish the first day of the decathlon competition in 10th place, and that warmed her a bit.

But she might have finished higher, because her best event is the 100 meter hurdles, which was run at 8 a.m., when the temperatures were in the 50s.

That's cool weather by most standards, but Johnson said the word "cool" didn't apply.

"I wouldn't call it 'cool.' I would say cold,'' she said. "You just have to deal with it. You have to wear long sleeves and long tights. You would never wear that in Georgia.''

Johnson competed in four of the seven events on Tuesday: The 100 meter hurdles, the high jump, the shot put and the 200 meter run. She will compete in the javelin, the long jump and the 800 meter run today.

Johnson, who will be a senior at Monroe High, is one of the most versatile athletes in Southwest Georgia. She starred for Monroe's girls basketball team and also was a big part of Monroe's girls Class AAA state championship track and field team, finishing second in the state in the 100 meter hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles behind teammate Lakeisha Jackson, who won both events,

Johnson won the East Regional decathlon title two weeks ago in North Carolina to qualify for her first national competition.

"I'm at a loss for words,'' she said of the event. "There are great competitors out here. You really have to bring your A game. Being 10th on the national level feels pretty good. I feel pretty good about the long jump (today). It's the 800 I'm worried about. I just have to go all out and leave it all on the track.''

The national meet runs all week, and the Ruff Riders have 14 girls and six boys competing in a different age brackets from 9-year-olds to the 16-17-year-old bracket. The group is led by Sir Paul Jones, who is a USA Today All-American and owns the second fastest time in the nation in the 400 meter hurdles (51.53). Jones also will compete in the 110 hurdles and on both relay teams. He helped Monroe's boys win the Class AAA state track meet as a junior and won both the 110 and 300 meter state titles while anchoring Monroe's state winning 4x400 relay team this spring as the Tornadoes finished second at the state meet.

Camilla's Justin Scott, who won Class AA state titles in the 100 meters and 200 meters, has run third fastest time in the 100 meters (10.35) this year. Scott, who will be a senior at Mitchell County High, will compete in the 100 and 200 this week and also run on both relay teams.

Monroe's Mimieux Land, who has already made a name for herself in Georgia by winning three individual Class AAA state titles (high jump, long jump and triple jump) and setting a state record in the triple jump as a sophomore this spring, qualified for the national meet by winning all three of those events in the East Regional meet in North Carolina.

Land begins competing on Thursday in the high jump. She will compete in the triple jump on Friday and the long jump on Saturday. When she won all three events at the state meet, she had to compete in them one-after another in a grueling but inspiring performance.

The national meet ends Sunday with finals in the running events. Sir Paul and Scott will compete in preliminary races on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and run the finals on Sunday.