In the fall of his sophomore year at MHS, Bruce Johnson participated on the football team – if one wants to call holding a tackling dummy for teammates to ram into participating.
Hold on, don't worry. We're not hurting Bruce's feelings.
"I was the fourth string tackling dummy holder – not first string, but fourth," he jokes. "Had there been a position for distance running, then I would have been a good football player."
By the next spring, with encouragement from Lynn Kravfe, coach of both the MHS cross country and track & field teams at the time, Johnson found his athletic calling: distance running.
In his first fall of running cross country in his junior year, Johnson not only qualified for the state meet but finished in seventh – the Skippers, as a team, took third. That next spring he was a pretty good miler in track, though he failed to make it to state after a third place finish in the regional meet behind two of the state's top milers.
Heading into his senior year, Johnson was considered one of the state's premier high school distance runners. As it turned out, he developed quite a rivalry with a runner from St. Paul Monroe, Pat Kelly.
Kelly got the best of him at the 1965 state cross country meet. "At one point in that race I lost my concentration a bit, and by the time I made a final push it was too late and I finished second. As a team, we finished third again, even though we had been rated No. 1."
There was no lack of concentration on Johnson's part at the 1966 state track meet at Macalester College. Not only did he best Kelly by more than a second to capture the mile, but his time of 4 minutes and 17.2 seconds was the best in MHS' track & field history until 2003.
Johnson carried his success to St. Cloud State, where he was a cross country NAIA all-American his freshman year. He also took second in the 1,000-yard race at the national indoor track meet.
Shin splints cut his running career short. "I still look back on my days on the Minnetonka cross country and track teams as a great time in my life," says Johnson, a retired teacher who spends plenty of time traveling with his wife, Judy. "Back then, distance running was kind of nerdy, so all of us runners hung out a lot together."