Knightdale duo return from Caribbean with medals

csmith@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2013 

— Kimani Hoffman and Marquavious Johnson competed all season to bring home a third-straight NCHSAA title for the Knightdale boys’ track and field team. The two standouts were then invited to the eighth annual Caribbean Scholastic Invitational from June 7-8 held in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Rather than considering the trip a total vacation from hard work, both came away with two silver medals – Johnson in the 400 meter and 4x400 relay, and Hoffman in the triple jump and long jump.

“It was a very fun and very relaxed atmosphere,” Hoffman said. “I felt like we were there to compete, but it wasn’t as serious. That made it pretty memorable because we got to experience a different culture and scenery than we have here.”

During the trip, Hoffman was hampered by an injury that limited the amount of workouts he participated in. The rising senior was diagnosed with what was believed to be early signs of plantar fasciitis in his heel, but he did not show signs of the injury hampering him with the two second-place finishes.

“All in all, I think it went pretty well,” Hoffman said. “I had a great time. I did pretty well considering I was injured throughout the trip. The staff was really helpful and understood my injury.”

Hoffman went on to set a personal record in the triple jump with a 47-foot-3-inch showing at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals the following weekend, breaking his previous best of 46 feet, 3 inches.

As for Johnson, he came up short in the 400 meter race by .3 seconds behind Ricky Morgan, a sprinter from Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Va. Johnson and Morgan were then paired up on a 4x400 relay team that also fell just short of gold.

The event, held by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation, is described by its website as an experience that is meant to “break the ice” for athletes who will potentially compete for the U.S. on other international teams.

“It’s been pretty cool to tell my friends about everything,” Johnson said. “A lot of them said, ‘Man, I wish I could have gone with you.’ It was great meeting new people and becoming close friends with other track people, too.”

Hoffman and Johnson went down to the invitational without the normal company of their parents and came back with more respect for one another.

“We got a lot closer than we were before the trip,” Johnson said. “We only knew (a little about) each other going down there, so we learned a lot about each other. We have a lot of experience now and I think we have what it takes to pull out another title this year.”

Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith

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