by Chris Hunt
“Your past doesn’t dictate your future. It simply gives you the extra push you need to exceed greatness.”
– Dr. Tri
Those words can be found on the wall of North Mecklenburg High School English teacher Kim Tuttle. The author, Dr. Tri, isn’t a famous poet or an outlaw graffiti artist. Instead, it’s a high school junior named Trikeria Johnson.
But don’t worry – Johnson wasn’t given detention for writing on the classroom wall. Like all of Tuttle’s students, Johnson was encouraged by her teacher to do it. It’s a teaching exercise in expression using the written word. Johnson, a self-described poet, took full advantage, finding one of her own passages written in her overused notebook. She said she signed the name “Dr. Tri” because it’s the nickname she’ll use when she earns a Ph.D. in psychology and becomes a motivational speaker.
Until then, she will be simply known as Trikeria Johnson, one of the fastest athletes in the Lake Norman area. At the Class 4A indoor track meet in February, Johnson finished sixth in the 500-meter dash with a scorching time of 1 minute, 20.59 seconds. She also powered the Vikings to a top-five finish in the 4x400 relay.
To top it all off, Johnson is The Herald Weekly’s 2010-11 Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
“Trikeria is a smart, intelligent and very determined athlete,” said North Meck coach Lawrence Lawson. “She has a lot of ambition.”
In part, Johnson’s ambition could be the reason she etched those words on her teacher’s wall. It’s a reminder of a commitment she made last summer: to become a leader on the track team.
As a sophomore, Johnson followed the lighting-quick footsteps of senior leader Brianna Brazile. Along with Lindsey Lang and Erin McAnulty, the Viking relay unit was fifth at the 2010 indoor state championships. But after Brazile and McAnulty graduated, Johnson knew she had to take the reigns of the team.
“Last year, I just assisted the team,” said Johnson. “This year, I noticed I had to take more of a leadership role. A lot of people look up to me on the team, and I had to set the example.”
And that’s exactly what Johnson did.
With words to live by, she inspired a young, inexperienced 4x400 squad, which narrowly captured the final qualifying spot for this year’s state indoor meet. When others doubted the Vikings could field another strong 4x400 relay without Brazile or McAnulty, Johnson encouraged her teammates – Melisa Helm, Carol Duke and Alyssa Lang – to meet the challenge and train like Spartans for the three weeks leading up to the state championships.
The result? North Meck’s 4x400 indoor relay team finished fourth – one spot higher than last season.
When Johnson becomes a motivational speaker, she’ll have one heck of an inspirational story to tell.