The similarities between high school sprint sensation Tyrese Cooper and the precocious 13-year-old Cha’iel Johnson are too strong to ignore.
Not only do Cooper and Johnson represent the same club team, Miami Gardens Xpress in Miami Gardens, Florida, but the Sunshine State pair also have each established themselves as versatile stars across three distances: the 18-year-old Cooper has been a national force in 100m, 200m, and 400m for half a decade, while Johnson’s impressive start in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m suggests her reign will be just as long.
Add in the fact that Cooper and Johnson have dominated their disciplines over several years at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, and their correlation grows even tighter. When you talk about the recent exploits of Cha’iel Johnson in girls’ AAU track, and you can’t help but measure them next to those of Tyrese Cooper on the boys’ side.
AAU Jr. Olympic Titles
AAU Club National Titles
AAU JO/Club Records
Fresh off a brilliant AAU season last summer—where she won five 12-year-old AAU crowns—Johnson can further that bond by joining an exclusive club headlined by none other than Cooper himself.
At this week’s AAU National Club Championships—July 8 -14 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida—the young Johnson has a chance to break AAU club nationals records in her three specialities, the 400m, 800m, and 1500m.
If she can do that, she would add her name to a short list that includes just Cooper and Damira Allen as the only athletes to hold three AAU club records in three different events from one championship. Cooper and Allen broke three records each in 2016—Cooper in the boys’ 15-16 year-old 100m, 200m, and 400m, Allen in the girls' 8-year-old 400m, 800m, and 1500m—all of which still stand. The daughter of legendary NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, aka “Ochocinco,” might just earn her own legendary status by achieving such an accomplishment.
Here’s a look Johnson’s PRs compared to the current 13-year-old girls AAU National Club records she will be chasing:
AAU 13-Year-Old Comparison
AAU Club Records
Cha’Iel Johnson’s PRs
The obvious question mark is in the 400m, as Johnson would need to cut off nearly a second and a half from her PR to crack the quarter-mile record. There’s no doubt that’s going to be tough. However, it should be noted that the MGX star’s speed is the club in her bag that seems to have improved the most relative to 2017. Not only has she lowered her 400m time by over a quarter-second compared to last season, but she also recently dipped under 26 seconds for the first time in the 200m. It was slightly windy at +2.3m/s, but her 25.92 was run over a month ago. The speed has likely improved since then.
Here’s Johnson training recently with her famous Dad:
Johnson still has a long ways to go before she can claim to be on the level of her friend and teammate Tyrese Cooper, a three-time New Balance Outdoor Nationals 400m champion, but there’s no doubt that the ability is there for her to be a star of his magnitude. It’s hard to master three events, and even harder as an athlete gets older and the competition starts to specialize, but like Cooper, Johnson has shown she has the range to handle the challenge.
When she ran her 4:43 1500m PR last summer, it was just her second career race at the distance, and yet she was only two seconds away from the 12-year-old AAU Junior Olympic record held by current Penn State All-American Danae Rivers. And in the 800m—Johnson’s best event—she currently sports a 25-race win streak. She missed that Junior Olympic record last year by a mere .42 seconds. The 400m may be her weakest event, but she’s shown much more consistency in that department in 2018, with five 56-second performances already this season compared to just one all last year.
Whether we’re still talking about Cha’iel Johnson five years from now remains to be seen, but with her incredible range, her best comp as a three-distance star is clearly Tyrese Cooper. With the added benefit of having elite athlete pedigree from her former NFL star Dad, Johnson should be lighting up tracks for years to come.