LA CROSSE, Wis. - Sylvia Johansen is rather famously unimpressed with her own accomplishments.
The Clinton High School freshman burst on the scene in February by winning an indoor meet in Whitewater, and never looked back.
She finished her season in grand style, winning the 100-meter dash and breaking the WIAA Division 2 state record with a blistering time of 11.95 seconds. Johansen led the race from the first step on, never letting second-place Grace Hebel in the race. Hebel, a sophomore from Westby, handed Johansen her only loss of the season in the East Troy Sectional when Johansen got off to a slow start.
Standing with her gold medal around her neck just off the track following her race, Johansen allowed herself a quick smile when asked if, just this once, she was impressed with what she'd just done. "I've thought about breaking 12 seconds, but I really didn't think I would do it this year," Johansen said. "But the competition really pushed me. I don't even believe that I'm wearing this medal right now, let alone breaking a state record."
Johansen said the start was the key to the race.
"In the preliminary race, I got out of the blocks good, but then I stumbled," Johansen said. "That got me as the second seed in the finals. But in the finals, I don't think I could've gotten off to a better start."
Clinton coach Jacob Standiford predicted in an off-the-record conversation in April that Johansen would not only win the state meet, but break the state record in the process.
"The thing that led me to say that was looking at the conditions she was running," Standiford said. "She ran a 12.29 in the preliminaries at the BDN Invite. Those weren't great conditions, and she had also been training really hard. She ran a perfect race, and I was so happy for her."
Johansen nearly pulled off a second state title, as she ran a 25.18 to finish second to Tatum Straw of Catholic Memorial, who just happened to be the defending state champion.
Shaw finished with a time of 24.86, chasing down Johansen after SylJo had taken a brief lead.
"I told her that she needed to attack the curve and be even with the girls in front of her," Standiford said. "She was in a great position because she was in lane four and had the two top girls to her outside in lanes five and six. Being even with them at the 100 was a great spot, but Straw is the defending state champion and a senior, and she came out on top. It was a great race."
Johansen also ran down a few runners for the Cougars' fourth-place 4x100 team, capping a memorable day for not only the competitors, but a hearty section of Clinton rooters that made the journey to La Crosse. Among them was Johansen's mother, Laura Schoonover, who said that Sylvia has always had the markings of a speedster.
"When she walked around as a toddler, she was always on her tippy-toes," Schoonover said. "And she was always quick. She would race around the house with her older brother. When she got close to beating him, that's when older brother stopped."
Schoonover said she Johansen's determination went a long way towards achieving her goals.
"I didn't know that she would break a state record in her freshman year," Schoonover said. "But I knew that she could do whatever she put her mind to, because that's just the way she is."