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Bears' Johnson claims school's first state title in drama-filled event

Photo: Larry G. Williams Mountain View's Alex Johnson finishes the high jump event in first place at the track and field state championships on Friday in Albany.

Photo: Larry G. Williams Mountain View's Alex Johnson finishes the high jump event in first place at the track and field state championships on Friday in Albany.

ALBANY -- For about two hours, Alex Johnson and Malayshia George sat together under an umbrella in the Albany heat and watched their competition disappear.

But the pair got their jumps in all the same.

When Mountain View's Johnson and Mill Creek's George finally cleared their first bar at 5-feet, 4 inches, both on their first try, the field dwindled down to four.

After everybody missed at 5-6, the Class AAAAA state championship in high jump went into a jump-off.

It took five jumps at three different heights before Johnson outlasted an injured George to win the first state championship in Mountain View's young history. In an event with six Gwinnett qualifiers, only Central's Caryn Ivey found another spot in the top eight, finishing seventh.

For the two friends, the win for Johnson felt slightly bittersweet at first.

"She got hurt," Johnson said of George, "but, yeah, I'm excited."

Even during the jump-off the two chatted as the bar height changed, talking about how stressful the playoff was and with Johnson checking on George's injured right foot.

"She's really sweet," George said of Johnson.

"It was very exhausting," Johnson said.

Johnson hit her fifth jump-off jump at 5-4 and then watched as an uncomfortable George hit the bar. She did little celebrating and the two hugged.

"I said, 'Good job,'" Johnson said she told George.

George and Johnson met at the beginning of this season and sat through many meets, waiting for their turn to jump.

"We were just very cool right off the bat," George said.

"It's just the fact that I am so competitive and she is so competitive," Johnson added. "I am definitely going to miss her next year."

George, who has battled a strained tendon in her right foot, re-aggravated it when she slipped on her final attempt in regular jumps at 5-6.

Before the jump-off George had her foot and ankle taped, but she slipped on every ensuing jump and never felt or looked comfortable again. Yet, she still covered 5-4 at the next opportunity.

The junior, who moved to Georgia from Minnesota before the school year, took solace in knowing she gets another shot at a high jump state crown.

"I am really happy she won," George said of her senior friend.

Johnson started high jumping earlier this year, first barely clearing 4-10. But she liked the sport and now wants to continue next year in college. And as the reality of what she just won slowly set in, Johnson's smile quickly grew.

She remembered promises of coaches shaving eyebrows and doing backflips. She found the win a fitting gift for her mother, Maria's, birthday. And she has a gift in mind for herself.

"I want a puppy," she said.