Success starts at home for Johnsons of Wright

At this time of year, Barbara and Bob Johnson's home often is filled with teen-aged runners.

On Saturday mornings, the whole C. Milton Wright cross country clan comes over to run hills, have breakfast and watch cartoons.


Maybe those road runner cartoons are the secret to the Mustangs' success. After all, the boys and girls teams won county titles this year.

More likely, however, the success has something to do with the coaching.


Since Bob Johnson took over the boys team six years ago, the Mustangs never have lost the county title. This year, they are the No. 1 boys team in the Baltimore metro area.

Barbara Johnson, the only coach the Mustangs girls program has had, has won several county titles in 13 years. This year's squad is young but still ranked among the top dozen teams in the area.

The Johnsons, who met on a blind date and married almost 18 years ago, have as much fun at Saturday morning cartoon fests and night-before-meet spaghetti dinners as the kids do.

"Just being with the kids is really enjoyable," said Barbara Johnson, an Aberdeen High graduate. "Seeing them improve and helping them along the way, you get to be like a big sister and big brother. It really is like one big family."

When C. Milton Wright first opened its doors, The Baltimore Sun's Harford County Cross Country Coaches of the Year coached against each other. Bob Johnson coached the girls team at Fallston when Barbara Johnson took over the Mustangs girls.

"In the early years, he consistently beat us," said Barbara Johnson. "We had a very small school. Then, we got closer and closer until I finally beat him. He says I only beat him once in my life, but that's OK."

Even in the winter, the Johnsons keep their runners together with a school running club. They encourage any student who wants to run for any reason to join them. So far, 57 youngsters have signed up.

Both coaches run to stay in shape, and they find a lot of satisfaction in helping their runners improve.


"In this sport, if you put the effort into it, you get better," said Bob Johnson, an Edgewood High graduate. "I like to watch kids improve whether they're the best runner on the team or the 50th.

l "When you tell some of these ninth-grade boys at the beginning of the season that they are going to be able to run 10 miles, they look at you incredulously," Johnson added. "But eventually, they do it and they tell you, 'Hey, I didn't think I could do it.' "