Tucson High grad Johnnie Blockburger, an 18-year-old freshman, has emerged nationally as one of the surprises of the 2021 NCAA track and field season.
His record performances for Arizona in April merit him the Jet Sports Training Male Athlete of the Month.
At the Jim Click Shootout home meet on April 10, he won the 400-meter event in 44.71, which ranked as No. 4 on the career U.S. Junior List. Two ahead of him — Steve Lewis and LaShawn Merritt — won Olympic gold and the other, Darrell Robinson, held the high school record of 44.69 seconds for 39 years.
The feat is even more impressive considering Blockburger’s personal best at Tucson was 48.02 seconds as a junior in 2019. The track season was practically non-existent in 2020 because of COVID-19.
“Definitely going into my senior year, I was really excited for (a PR in the 400),” Blockburger told Track and Field News. “I knew I was going to do something better than junior year, but when that all got canceled, I was like, ‘Alright, I have to do something big outdoors of my freshman year because that’s where I can make my mark kind of.’
“But I didn’t think I’d go from a 48.1 my junior year to a 44. I didn’t know I’d PR by that much.”
His dad is six-time U.S. national championships decathlon competitor Sheldon Blockburger, who coaches at Arizona. He won the bronze medal at the 1991 Pan American Games and was the first American champion in the indoor heptathlon.
Johnnie broke the Arizona 400-meter record with his 44.71 mark. He previously set the freshman record at the Willie Williams Classic with a time of 45.83. His performance makes him the first Wildcat to run the 400 meters under 45 seconds and replaces Bobby McCoy’s record from 2008.
“Johnnie has that type of skill set to be one of the elite 400-meter runners in the country, if not the world,” head coach Fred Harvey said.
His twin sister, Alyssa, also competes at Arizona
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.