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Meet the Coach - Cross-country - Mark Johnson

Photo Credit / Frank Poulin Photography

By Adam Levine

Sports Editor

Mark Johnson, 34, is the head men's cross-country, women's cross-country, and women's outdoor track and field coach, after serving as the assistant coach since 2017.

Originally from Wellesley, Johnson said he began running track in sixth grade, but did not start running cross-country until his junior year at Wellesley High School.

Johnson said he “loved” the track program in high school.

“I had an incredible coach there, who I look up to, to this day,” he said. “He just kept pushing my limits athletically.”

Johnson said his favorite event to run in high school was the 800-meter. “It's more than a sprint, less than the endurance of the mile and two-mile.”

Johnson said he has run five marathons, including the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the London Marathon, and a marathon in Seattle and in North Carolina.

He said his favorite memory as a runner was during the small marathon in Seattle, which he ran to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Johnson said he crossed the finish line in 10th place at 2:51.02, which qualified him for the Boston Marathon by less than a minute.

“Just crossing the line and having qualified for Boston is my biggest running memory and one of my happiest moments,” he said.

Johnson said, “There was an announcer at the finish line and just hearing ‘Mark Johnson from Wellesley, Massachusetts qualifies Boston’ - that was fun.”

Johnson graduated from Lasell University with a degree in sports management.

He said his goal was to work in professional sports.

After college, Johnson said he worked for the New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team.

He said he worked as an intern and a full-time staff member, doing everything from being the mascot to being the assistant equipment manager.

“I’d like to say that I've hit most of my dreams on the lowest level possible,” Johnson said.

Through his connections with the Revolution, Johnson said he began coaching at Hopedale High School.

He said his favorite memory in his early career as a coach was winning the State Championship with Hopedale in 2014 - “A moment that will forever live in my mind.”

Johnson said they tied with Newburyport and the winner had to be decided with a tie-breaker, going down to the teams’ sixth- and seventh-place finishers.

He said he was “panicking, trying to do all the math in [his] head” before Hopedale was named as the winner.

Johnson said his favorite part about coaching at FSU is the beauty of the campus and his colleagues.

He said his favorite part of being a running coach is “watching all the incremental improvements that all the athletes make.

“Just seeing the time and effort that all the athletes are putting in and watching those rewards is so incredible,” Johnson added.

He said he sees himself as a “player’s coach.”

Johnson said, “We're one team. We need to be on the same page as much as we can.

“I try to be as open as I can with the team and be there for them both as students and athletes. Because at the end of the day, student before athlete,” he added.

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