Osceola County featured one of the best, if not the best, high school girls sprinters in Central Florida in 2019.
One of the best jumpers also calls Osceola home.
Osceola High sprinter Alliann Johnson and Liberty High jumper Christelle Bonzil both dominated the Orange Belt Conference meet in their disciplines, carried that on to their district meets and won regional titles that allowed them to compete again at the Class 4A (OHS) and 3A (LHS) state meet at the University of North Florida.
The weather at the state championships did not do Johnson, Bonzil or any of the athletes favors. The two-day event in Jacksonville was marred by heavy rains and delayed multiple times by lightning.
Despite the wet weather and the delays, Johnson placed fifth in the state in the 100 meters (12.00 seconds) and eighth in the 200 (24.63). Bonzil sixth in the triple jump (37 feet, 2.5 inches) and eighth in the long jump (17-4) and high jump (4-11.75).
During the track season, Johnson posted Central Florida’s second-best time in the 100 (11.88) and fastest 200 (24.04), and Bonzil was best in high jump, third in the triple and fourth in the long jump.
The two seniors-to-be are both being highlighted as Osceola News-Gazette Girls Track Co-Athletes of the Year.
Johnson likes to chase
Johnson swept the sprints, also winning the 400, and helped power OHS’ 4x400 relay to another win at OBCs. Then she claimed four district titles (100, 200, 4x100, 4x400), and won the regional in the 200 and was second in the 100 with her fastest times of the year, and helped the 4x400 relay team win by almost six seconds (3:58.91).
Winning is great, she said, but running from the front isn’t always.
“I take pride in being the fastest in my county or Central Florida, but I need to be pushed, and I was looking for that push all season,” Johnson said. “Honestly I like chasing more rather than being chased.”
Johnson started running track at St. Cloud Middle School as part of the county’s deep and talented middle school program, began taking it seriously with Pinellas as her high school coach, and now she values running her goal times over winning races. She is eyeing making the team at LSU next fall, and said that will take getting her 100 time down below 11.5. That’s motivation enough going into her senior track season.
“Track season has already started for me,” said Johnson, who won’t run her first high school race of 2020 until February. “I trust my coaching in that it will happen.”
Kowboys Coach Eric Pinellas said he knew he had a special talent from her first high school practice.
“She had a different gear and physical assets. What put her over the top was the choice to be in our weightlifting program last year, so came in this season in great shape and it showed,” he said. “With the progression she’s on, 11.5 in the 100 and a mid-23 200 is possible. “She could be our next big Division I track signee, her GPA and test scores are good to the academic part is a no-brainer. We’ll be going to big meets next year to get her that push.”
Bonzil chasing jump goals
Like Johnson, Bonzil became a track fan in middle school while attending Bellalago Academy, and played many sports but became intrigued with track while watching the jumping events. Despite the awkward look of the high jump (“I was scared at first, you run at a pole you have to jump over on your back”), she became a state-meet qualifier as a freshman at New Dimensions. She came over to Liberty to work with coach Mickey Smith the following year at Liberty. He convinced her to do the other jumps, and while she thinks she’s probably more skilled as a high jumper, she’s really taken to the triple jump.
“I really love the hop, skip and jump part of the triple jump,” she said. “Then Coach Smith told me to try the long jump once and knew I’d be competitive in that, too.”
Smith said she was undefeated against Osceola County competition in all three disciplines, and kept it going through the district meet, and won the high and triple jumps at regionals.
To show how bad the conditions were at state, she just missed 5 feet in the high jump and 37-3 in the triple, but at the Golden South regional invitational meet two weeks later in Orlando Bonzil won the high jump at 5-4.75 and placed second in the triple jump at 38-4.
“Track is as mental a sport as physical,” she said. “When you’re worried about falling or slipping, you can’t jump your best. We long-jumped in the dark.”
Smith said Bonzil won the mental battle.
“It did rain but it was just the waiting and going and waiting and going and warming up and get the cold again due to the lightning delays,” he said. “It would have easily put the regular athlete out of the state of mind to compete but I can say Christelle stood strong.”
She has also learned how to manage what can be a tight jumping schedule at meets and leaving enough in her legs to run — she also helped the Chargers’ 4x100 relay to second, third and ninth-place finishes at district, regionals and state.
“People will say, ‘Oh, you’re just jumping,’ but it takes a toll on the legs doing all three,” she said. “It can be really hard to schedule workouts for each one.”
She’s a rising senior at Liberty, but she’s still trying to squeeze in the last of her junior year this summer with training and competition. The goals are to hit 20 feet in the long jump, 41 in the triple and clear 5-8 in the high jump.
“Every day I work, I try to find what I can do
to be better. I’m focused on hitting those goals,”
Those should be good enough to land a spot in a collegiate program; she hopes to sign in December so it isn’t a distraction during the season.
Carrying a 4.6 weighted GPA and near the top of her class and a completed Associate’s degree before she leaves Liberty, her plan is to study biochemistry as an undergrad and move on to psychiatry.