Prep swimming: Tooele's Brandon Johnson chases elusive first-place medal
Tooele senior swimmer Brandon Johnson has been there before, standing on the starting blocks of the state meet.
There's the tingle that dances through limbs.
There's the narrow focus on the task at hand.
There's the singular desire to win.
There also is the pressure. A season, and sometimes a high-school career, packed into one race. That is not lost on Johnson, who will have one last chance to capture a state title at the Class 3A state swim meet, something that has eluded him thus far.
"I mean, you've got one chance to be able to swim your best," he said. "It all goes quiet, and all I know is it's just me and the water. I know I've had all this training, and to be able to put it all into one race in one moment, hopefully I'll be able to bring home a title."
Johnson has felt what it's like to come close to winning a title but come up just short. He finished second in the 100-yard butterfly last year. But this season his chances to win seem favorable. He has the top time of any Class 3A swimmer in the event.
And according to Tooele coach Mel Roberts, Johnson has another important factor working in his favor.
"I think he's got what is called the X factor," Roberts said. "You can't really put your finger on it. Some of the really good swimmers want to win, but the really great ones hate to lose, and I think that's the quality that Brandon has."
Along with the 100-yard butterfly, Johnson will compete in the 200 individual medley, race the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay and anchor the 200 freestyle relay.
He has the second best time in the 200 individual medley this season, and Tooele has posted competitive times in both relays, giving Johnson a realistic shot at more than one first-place finish.
"I think I have a pretty good chance," he said. "There's some pretty good swimmers, and I'm looking forward to being in the same pool as those guys and see if I can pull out my best."
If he can capture a title or two, the state meet will be a fitting swan song to Johnson's successful career at Tooele. After he swam at Stansbury his freshman season, his family moved into Tooele boundaries. He likes to say he's been adopted into the Buffaloes' strong swimming tradition, which is passed on through generations.
"The swimmers out here in Tooele, we're really more of family than a swim team," Johnson said. "Even the girls, they support me in what I do, and everyone pushes me hard to show me what I'm capable of."
Johnson has become a leader for the Buffaloes. Older swimmers showed him the hard work that was necessary to become one of the state's top swimmers, and Johnson in turn has passed on those lessons.
Roberts said that will be Johnson's lasting legacy at Tooele regardless of what happens in the state meet.
"It's vital," Roberts said. "You've got to have at least one or two people like that on every team, and they might only come around every three or four years."