WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Tom Johnson arrived in America from his native Sierra Leone a decade ago as a shy second-grader but the White Pains sprinter, long jumper and triple jumper made another giant leap forward Friday when he took on the long jump and the triple jump at the 45th Glenn D. Loucks Memorial Track and Field Games at White Plains High School.
"I liked sports as a little boy and but didn't want to leave my friends at home, so it took me some time to start running here," Johnson said between long jumps. "The triple jump is my best event now. I'm aiming at 50-feet in the near future, but I like the long jump and sprints too."
Johnson, who is the reigning New York State Public Schools and Federation (public, parochial, private and New York City schools) indoor triple jump champion, was reaching 22 feet in the first jumps of the Loucks Game long jump final in his home jumping pit and talking about his future. Johnson took second place over in the long jump with a leap of 22-1, the best finish for a Westchester jumper.
"A friend of mine from New Rochelle (runner Themi Bajulaiye) and I are making a video about the triple jump and getting to the 50-foot mark," Johnson said as he talked about his high school future and beyond. "I'd like to go the Atlantic Coast Conference for college and to compete and eventually maybe the Olympics. I am setting goals each time I compete."
Johnson, who brings a flair to his jumping with arms and legs outstretched as he explodes out of the jump lane, was wearing high socks -- one black and the other white -- Thursday.
"I try different things with the socks -- two black, two white, one each," he said with a smile. "I even tried with just short ankle socks once and it was terrible. You have to enjoy the events. I get along with the other guys and we all push each other. It took me time to get used to being in America, but I'm at home now."
And Johnson is an American champion at home with his talent.
The Loucks Games continue Saturday at 9 a.m. with ceremonies at noon and a full afternoon schedule of events.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.