Running to SFA: Johnson signs scholarship offer to become Lady Lumberjack

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 25, 2007 - BIRTHRIGHT - Ebbonye Johnson's mother was cleaning her room the other day and tried to pick up a duffel bad so packed with something that she could barely budge it.

It turns out, the bag contained Ebbonye's track and cross country medals - all 253 of them.

Johnson will likely leave those mementos behind when she travels several hours southward next year to run track at Stephen F. Austin State University. Johnson, with her mother, Debbie Gilmore, at her side, signed the scholarship offer on Thursday in the North Hopkins High School library.

The NHHS senior, who has lettered in four sports all four years in high school, will high jump and long jump at SFA as a freshman, but will likely expand her skills to the heptathlon before it's all over.

It was a day of mixed emotions for her basketball, track and cross country coach Tim Menke, who will be losing one of the best athletes he has ever coached.

"She's been a pretty special athlete," said Menke. "If you're lucky, you get someone like her once every 25 or 30 years."

Johnson earned eight medals at the state track meet, was All-State in three different sports (basketball, volleyball and track), earned All-Star recognition in track, and was a member of two state championship cross country teams at North Hopkins. In addition, she holds eight track and field records at the school: in the 100, 200 and 400, long jump, high jump, triple jump and mile relay.

Menke said she also is a very good student and well-liked by her teammates and competitors.

"She's real well-liked. When we go to track meets, there are kids from other schools always talking to her. She's real well-liked by her competitors," he explained. "Ebbonye has good sportsmanship. A lot of times when you get kids who are that athletically-inclined, they're not that way, but she's always been a real good sport."

Going to college will be a change for Johnson, who will be concentrating on just one sport, and just a couple of events in that sport. She has competed in five track and field events all four years of high school and qualified for state in six different events.

She will also concentrate on her studies in the nursing program. That was one of the reasons she picked SFA over Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-Commerce.

"They have a nursing program, and I plan on being a nurse," she said. "Sam Houston didn't have a nursing program. Also, the offer from SFA was pretty good."

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