In assessing his high school track career, sprinter Joseph Littlejohn of Parkland describes his journey as “a little rocky” because of various injuries. This indoor season stands as a good example of how things have played out so far.
Littlejohn was slowed considerably by a strained hip flexor, which caused him to miss several weeks of intense training designed to ensure his race fitness. Even so, the senior battled through physical setbacks and performed admirably at the NCHSAA Class 3-A state indoor championships at JDL Fast Track three weeks ago.
Although he was “about 80 percent healthy” for the state, Littlejohn placed third in the 55-meter dash with a personal best of 6.53 seconds and he ran a leg on the 4x200 relay that finished second.
“Through all the missed training, Joseph maintained his focus,” Coach Antwan Hughes of Parkland said. “It’s very difficult to come back from an injury and PR. That takes a lot of courage. He’s a big reason why our boys’ team has excelled.”
Entering the state championships, Littlejohn, a two-year team captain, was keenly aware that he would have to conquer all mental challenges. He refused to let his health status become an issue that might work against him.
“At the state, I was still hurting. And I prayed a lot,” said Littlejohn, who will compete in the 55 at the New Balance indoor nationals in New York next week. “God brought me through. I reminded myself that I needed to go out with a bang. With my frame of mind, I was so tuned in that I don’t remember much about crossing the finish line.”
Littlejohn, who specializes in the 100 for the outdoor season, came to Parkland last year after running for Winston-Salem Prep, where he received All-State honors in indoor track (55 and 300) as a sophomore. In his first year at Parkland, Littlejohn became an integral part of the sprint relay teams.
At the Class 4-A state indoor meet last year, he was a member of the title-winning 4x200 relay that set a state record and he was part of the 4x400 that finished second. During the outdoor season, he ran the third leg on the Mustangs 4x100 foursome that captured the state 4-A title.
Last summer was a career highlight for Littlejohn, who medaled in the 4x200 (third) and 4x100 (fourth) at the New Balance outdoor nationals. “That was a special time,” said Littlejohn, who has attracted interest from college coaches at Western Carolina, Guilford, Catawba and Lenoir-Rhyne. “I never envisioned competing against the fastest in the country and finishing among the top four.”