Keeping up with the Johnsons
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 12, 2004 -- Being two of eight siblings, competition in their household is nothing new for William and Ebbonye Johnson. Competition at the state level isn't new for them, either.

William, a senior at North Hopkins, and Ebbonye, a freshman, are two of five NHHS athletes who will be competing Friday and Saturday at the UIL State Track and Field Meet at Myers Stadium in Austin.

William will be running the 400-meter dash on Saturday afternoon, while Ebbonye will be in the high jump Saturday morning.

They've both been to a state meet before. William ran in two events last year as a junior, and Ebbonye was a member of the Lady Panthers' state championship cross country team in the fall.

They are part of a family legacy in Birthright that includes four siblings older than William, three Johnsons in high school and another in middle school.

"We've got eight kids in our family," William explains, "and I'm not going to say it's a competition, but ..."

"It's a competition," Ebbonye interjects.

"Yeah, I guess it is sort of a competition," William continues. "You have to make your own mark. You kind of have the pressure of being good. You look up to your older brothers and sisters. They've done good and you want to do just as good or better than them, so you work a little bit harder."

Coaches and teachers say the Johnsons work hard at whatever they do, whether it's athletics (they both play multiple sports) or school work, where they are honor students.

"They're all great kids," said Tim Menke, girls basketball and track coach. "They're outstanding athletes, they make good grades, they're respectful. It's just an outstanding family."

Their older brother, Jemirius, was a three-time state track competitor, earning a silver medal last year in the 800-meter dash.

Both William and Ebbonye say track is probably their favorite sport. They both competed in the maximum five events at district. William earned a berth in the area and regional meets in four events (100, 200, 400, triple jump), and Ebbonye went in five (200, 400, mile relay, high jump, long jump).

Now, they can concentrate on one event as the state meet nears.

"At region, I had the 100, 400 and then 200, and I had hardly any time to rest in between them. You have to sacrifice one of the races because you're trying to get (to state) in at least one of them. If you use up all your energy in one race, you're in trouble in the others.

"When it comes down to the meet, it's better for me to have one event rather than three or four because I've got more energy and I know I have one race that day."

Ebbonye likes the challenge of running multiple events, and she'll likely have the chance to do that at state in the future. She and classmate Sabra Thomas, who will be in the 1,600 and 3,200, are the only two freshman to qualify for state in Menke's 13 years at the school.

Going into the state meet, only two girls jumped 5-feet, 2-inches at their regional meets. Ebbonye was one of them, and she duplicated that feat last Friday at a state qualifiers meet. At the state cross country meet, she finished 17th overall, third best on the team. She also played varsity basketball and volleyball.

"I think my best sport is probably track," she said. "I like it. I see running a lot of events as a challenge, to see how fast I can go when I get tired. Coach always tells us when you go hard when you get tired, you'll get better, faster."

That's an advantage when competing either at state or in your own family.

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