Katherine Johnson, Daija Burrell

Left, Katherine Johnson finished second in the shotput in the open division of the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational. Right, Estrella Foothills senior Daija Burrell competes in the 100-meter hurdles at the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational on March 22. (West Valley View photos by Eric Newman)

Good friends on and off the field,  Estrella Foothills seniors Daija Burrell and Katherine Johnson are looking to have success in their final track and field season for the Wolves.

Both athletes took second place in the open division on March 22’s Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational – the biggest event until the state championships in May – in their respective events. Johnson recorded a 30-foot-11-inch throw in the shotput, while Burrell earned a silver medal with a 16.79-second finish in the 100-meter hurdles.

The two, who also play basketball together in the track offseason, said they are each other’s biggest fan.

“We’re just there for each other. When she’s not throwing, she supports me. When I’m not running, I go support her,” Burrell said.

Johnson added, “We’ve known each other for a while. We kind of know what to say to each other to hype ourselves up, and it’s just been great to have her around.”

Coach Robert Glenn, who has over three decades of experience in high school track, said Burrell is one of the more naturally gifted competitors he has coached in a while. Her parents ran track and field years ago – her mother was actually a hurdler, too – and it seems the athletic genes have been passed on.

“She is a special athlete because she’s a good 100-meter hurdler, a good high jumper and she anchors our four-by-100 relay. I took her to long jump at a meet before and out of nowhere she jumped 16 feet, which is one of the top distances in our division so far,” Glenn said.

Johnson, who also competes in other throwing events such as discus, is also very talented. But one of her best qualities is how stress-free she appears to be on the field.

“She likes to have a lot of fun, more so than most people. They look at the workouts almost like a punishment. She looks at them more as a fun thing, and that’s helping her get better,” Glenn said.

Johnson added, “I just like being in the sun and throwing. I love coming out to events and just having fun and seeing what I can do.”

Behind their laid-back demeanors, though, is an intense desire to win.

Both girls competed in the state championships as juniors last season. Johnson finished 13th in shotput, while Burrell took fifth in the 100-meter hurdles. And, both events had some of their top competitors graduate after last season.

With hard work and the willingness to cheer each other as well as the rest of the team on, the pair see no reason they shouldn’t be near or on the medal stand at the end of this year’s state meet.

“I’m really motivated. Last year, it was just something I was kind of doing to have fun. Now, I’m into it and want to win. And I think that both of us feel that way,” Johnson said.

Burrell could not agree more.

“It’s funny because we both say we’d probably cry if we won,” Burrell said. “It would be such a fun way to end senior year.”