Dr. Phillips' Senior Grew Up Loving Gators

Dr. Phillips' standout Amber Johnson had a great senior season for the Panthers. Johnson ended her cross country career with a third place finish at state, a top thirty finish at the Foot Locker South Regional, and a fourth place showing at the FACA Senior All Star Meet. Recently, she made the decision to continue her college career at the University of Florida. See why she chose the Gators, her thoughts on the incoming freshman class, and what surprise event she is hoping to add to her resume in 2013.

What has the recruiting process been like for you?
The recruiting process has been hectic and stressful, but also very fun and exciting. From the summer onward, I hit the ground running (no pun intended) contacting coaches, exchanging information, narrowing down schools, etc. There’s a lot involved in the entire process, a lot more than I initially expected, and it’s difficult to know how to go about it. However, I had a great support and advice system to guide me along the way and that made the process so much easier. At the same time though you get to connect with all sorts of really great people between your potential future teammates, the coaches you talk to, and fellow recruits. It’s unlike any other experience I’ve ever had but at the end of the day, I’m glad I’ve come to a decision at last.
What schools did you take visits to?
I took official visits to Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and surprise surprise- Florida! There were multiple other schools that I took unofficial visits to and got the opportunity to tour their campuses. I really wanted to explore all my options and get a good feel as to what it was I really wanted out of a school.
Why did you ultimately choose the Gators?
To me, Gainesville has always felt like home. Ever since I can remember my family has gone to football games in the fall, even when I thought football was the most boring sport on earth. It instilled an early love for the school that never fully went away even as my dreams and aspirations of where I wanted to go to college shifted from school to school. Also, I feel as if the opportunities for both academic and athletic success are limitless, as Florida is known for its prestige in both. Coach Spangler is a great coach and the girls on the team are great as well. Florida was a place where I saw myself going to school more than I could at any other place, and I can’t wait to become part of the Gator Nation.
You mentioned your bond with the girls and connection with Coach Spangler. How much of an impact did that have in your decision?
Coach Spangler is great and I felt like I identified with him and his coaching philosophies really well. I know that he will help me improve tremendously and I’m excited for him to be my coach in the years to come. As far as the other runners already on the team go, it was really nice going into my visit because I was already friends or at least familiar with some of the girls on the team. I felt really comfortable around them and I’m really looking forward to becoming teammates and better friends with all of them next year. 

Year in and year out the Gators seem to get some of the top talent across the state. What are your thoughts on this year's recruiting class?
The UF recruiting class is full of extremely talented athletes and I feel completely honored to be a part of that. Florida is a school that is known for its excellence and commitment to its athletic program, and all of the runners who will be my teammates next year fit that same form. We have a really competitive class coming in, and I can’t wait to see the impact we make as a collective whole on the program.
What kind of runner are the Gators getting in Amber Johnson?
Like most, I feel that I am extremely dedicated and passionate with what I do. I have a firm belief that in order to run cross country and track, you really have to love to run; otherwise the sport becomes even more difficult than it already is. I’m a runner who loves what I do, and I plan to keep running for the rest of my life. It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. 
What are you looking forward to most about running in college?
I’m looking forward to pushing my running to new heights and a new level. I’ve heard about how fierce and competitive college races are and I can’t wait to experience them for myself. I also look forward to getting to know a new team, create new memories, and make new friends with a group of great runners and just overall people.

I know you and Bridget Blake are teammates and really good friends. She’s headed to FSU. Have you both already started talking smack or the rivalry chatter?
Anyone who knows Bridget and I well, knows two things about us- we’ve always had little sweet spots for the colleges we’re going to next year, and we’re both extremely competitive. We’ve been smack talking for well over a year now and most of the time it’s light hearted. We can definitely get a little sassy with each other from time to time but it’s all in good fun. However, I wouldn’t want it any other way, and it’s one of the many things I love about our relationship. It’ll be great to look back on one day and tell stories of how we were best friends and arch rivals all at the same time.

You've had a great high school career at Dr. Phillips. Which moments stick out the most?
It’s so difficult to think about a select few of my greatest memories because I have so many that I cherish. The few that really stick out to me most are my very first training run ever which started a bond with one of my best friends Stephanie, acorn fights and kumquat fights, “Secret Highway” runs, Linnie yelling “You will not be denied”, post-workout FroYo- “because we deserve it!”, spirit boxes, team bus rides, meeting tons of other amazing runners from around the state, being on the podium with my 4x8 teams freshman and sophomore year, third place team finish at state in 2010, making top ten at the cross country state meet junior and senior year, post-practice pictures, and gaining a group of friends that I hope I never lose as I move on to college next year. 
It's your senior year what are your goals for this year and beyond?
This track season, my goals are to go sub five minutes in the 1600 and sub 11 minutes in the 3200. I’ve also found several 2k steeplechase events throughout the season that I’d like to try and get into. I ran one over the summer and I think I have found a new favorite race to run!

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