- Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 20:28
- Published on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 20:28
- Hits: 553
James Johnson personifies the American spirit
His passion for mechanical engineering has no boundaries.
For 35 years, King George resident, James T. Johnson has successfully competed in the sport of lawn and garden tractor pulling, finishing each year at the top of his game. Throughout the years, Johnson, a graduate of Ralph Bunche and a retired truck driver and engineering technician from Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, has placed first numerous times.
In fact, in 1998, 2005, 2006, and 2007 he celebrated first place four times in each season respectively, using two tractors, a weight transfer sled, that he built in his own backyard. Last year he was third in point production for the 1400-pound Eliminator Modified category. Most recently, at the Hanover County “Shuk N Pull” tractor pull competition, Johnson placed first in the 1200-pound class, using Southern Sample as his tractor. In addition, he placed third in the 1400-pound class, using Mighty Moe as his tractor. Although he competed in the 1850-pound class, he failed to place using Silver Shadow as his tractor.
The basics of tractor pull competition are simple; whoever can pull a mechanized transfer sled, carrying various amounts of weight the farthest on a 200-foot course, wins. This technical aspects may sound simple, but the reality of tractors failing to start, tractors blowing engines, picking the wrong surface to race in, and not having the weight set in the proper place on the sled could spell disaster for a novice or veteran competitor. The most Johnson has ever pulled was 9,000 pounds.
The primary difficulty in tractor pulling is carrying the weight-box that is attached to the sled. The weight-box will start out on the wheel portion of the sled, and as the tractor advances, the weight is transferred from the wheels to the drag part of the sled-bed—which eventually makes it harder to advance the tractor.
Johnson is an active member of the Shenandoah Valley Tractor Pullers Association. The organization has 75 active members who compete all over the country. Some of the states that Johnson has traveled include: Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Maryland and North Carolina.
As an official, a well-respected member of the tractor pulling circuit, Johnson is 1200 Pro Sportsman Super Modified and the 1400 Pro Eliminator Super Modified representative. Also, he is the head tech official at each event.
The urge to compete in tractor pulling has fascinated Johnson since the day a friend encouraged him to enter a tractor-pulling event in Fredericksburg in 1974. Although his tractor weight of 1,300 pounds prevented him officially entering as a competitor, race officials did allow him to showcase his tractor in an exhibition pull. Afterwards, Johnson had found an avenue that he could both pursue his lifelong interest in mechanics, while surrounding himself with competitors who shared the same interest in tractors that he has. “After the race was over, I told myself, ‘man, I like this,’” Johnson said. “Its really a good feeling to know you’re competing against people who are just as good as you are. I enjoyed the feeling of making a piece of equipment that would not break under tremendous pressure.”
In high school, Johnson amazed his classmates by building a motorbike, that he often road to school and work. Driven to build the bike at any cost, Johnson skipped lunch, and saved his money to purchase a three horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine, that cost $49.99, from Sears and Roebuck. The bike reached a maximum speed of 50-mph. Not only was the bike durable to handle street traffic, but also Johnson made sure the bike was covered by insurance, complete with license plates and title before entering the roadway.
Throughout Johnson’s life, he has found satisfaction from defying the obstacles that sometimes accompany life, and hurdling them with the desire to succeed using his natural talents. After high school, and several failed attempts at landing a job in Dahlgren at NSWC, he decided to build a career foundation by entering the military. He also served his country in the National Guard for a brief period.
Although the doors to employment at NSWC in Dahlgren remained closed, he was able to land a job at the Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, where he worked for 33 years.
When Johnson is not building tractors or competing against rival pullers in some far away region in Virginia, he spends time with his wife, Phyllis. All three of their children are now adults. He also proudly serves Antioch Baptist Church in King George in the capacity of a deacon.
The next tractor pull competition scheduled for Johnson will be on April 18, in Gordonsville, for the “Fun Pull” competition. Information pertaining to Johnson and the sport of tractor pulling can be accessed online at www.jamestjohnson.org.
While the thrill of victory will always have a place in Johnson’s heart, the real joy is the camaraderie associated with networking with fellow pullers. “I pull for fun of it,” Johnson said. “I am not going to pull and work myself to death.”
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 19:54
- Published on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 19:54
- Hits: 467
Fox shooters showcase skills in national spotlight
The King George High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) air rifle team won first place in the three-position sporter air rifle competition at the National Navy Air Rifle Championship held in Camp Perry, OH, on February 26-28.
The sporter team of seniors Sam Green and Matt Reed, junior Elizabeth Hampton, and sophomore Kimberly Heitmeyer fired the match on February 27 and 28, coming in first place with just ten points between themselves and the third place team. The team of four, coached by Coach James Morgan and the KGHS NJROTC’s Senior Naval Science Instructor, CMDR Fred Duckworth, will be traveling to Fort Benning, GA for the Inter-Service JROTC National Championship on March 26-28.
Sam Green earned 2nd place in the individual sporter category, after a shootout with another competitor in finals. Finals is a match at the end of competition in which the top eight competitors fire 10 shots in the standing position, taking 75 seconds for each shot. Finals are shot to break ties between shooters and to establish the best shooter. Sam also tied the Navy National record of 197 points out of 200 in prone.
During the awards banquet, Matt Reed and Elizabeth Hampton received their Distinguished Junior Medals for marksmanship. Elizabeth Hampton accumulated enough Excellence in Completion (EIC) points prior to the Navy Nationals and Matt Reed earned enough EIC points during the match in Camp Perry.
Junior Caitlin Hendrickson was the sporter alternate and earned 4th place among 19 shooters.
A team of junior Christopher Braccini and freshmen Alessandra Williamson, Matthew Ritenour, and Russell Ryder fired in the precision air rifle category.
JROTC programs have shot air rifle since 1996. They hosted their own matches until 2002 when the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) organized the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps JROTC championships into Eastern and Western Regionals to be followed by Nationals. The Air Force’s air rifle program joined the CMP matches in 2008.
This year, with the completion of an air rifle range at Camp Perry, Ohio, which also hosts the National Matches in pistol and small-bore and high-power rifle. The CMP began hosting Service Nationals individually and then sending the top four teams in both sporter and precision air rifle categories from each service to Fort Benning, GA for Inter-Service Championship.
Sommer Wood, a program manager for the CMP summer programs, explained that Theodore Roosevelt founded the CMP in 1903 after he noticed a lack of marksmanship among civilians during the Spanish-American War.
By Christopher Braccini
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2009 18:54
- Published on Wednesday, 25 February 2009 18:54
- Hits: 432
On March 28, a sea of red baseball uniforms will take the field at the new baseball field, on the grounds of Sealston Elementary School. The Challenger Red baseball team will formally introduce the new complex to the world of little league baseball by showcasing their skills in front of a crowd that will include the Baltimore Orioles mascot, “Big Bird,” various King George County government officials, and a host of former King George high stars and adoring fans of America’s greatest pastime.
On the following Saturday, the Challengers will take their show on the road to Barnsfield baseball park for the opening day of King George Little League Baseball. Throughout the season, the Challengers will play two games a week against local and Maryland area teams. Games will be played in Sealston, Barnsfield and in Maryland.
The Oriole Advocates, out of Baltimore, Maryland is huge supporter of the Challengers program. Most recently, the Oriole Advocates assisted the Challengers with a financial grant. The Oriole Advocates was established 48 years ago as a sports boosters club, whose goal was to support organizations that are related to little league baseball, and sports organizations that are need based. Currently the organization is made up of 100 men and women volunteers from all walks of life, with a common love of the game of baseball.
Each season, the Baltimore Orioles baseball organization traditionally hold various promotions, where members of the Oriole Advocates hand out bats, hats, mugs, and balls before they enter the stadium [Camden Yards].
Other charitable efforts by the Oriole Advocates include: the restoration of the Babe Ruth Museum, Little League Clinics, Junior Orioles, Hit and Run League and the Cardboard to Leather program. The Cardboard to Leather program promotes baseball internationally by providing baseball equipment to third world countries. Since the program’s inception, the Oriole Advocates have donated 40 tons of baseball equipment outside the United States.
The King George Parks and Recreation Department [KGP&R], under the direction of Director Tim Smith will coordinate the festivities associated with the grand opening of the venue.
Although the Challengers kids are afflicted with physical and mental disabilities, they are a competitive team, made up of athletes with a sincere love for the game of baseball. Baseball allows them to express their ability to compete in an competitive environment where they will be treated on the same level as any other kid. “We play the game of baseball the way it was meant to be played,” said Challenger coach Linda Davis. “Last season, every single one of them could hit a thrown pitch, which in Challenger world is phenomenal. Three of my players can knock the ball over the fence.”
Although parents of the Challenger players have pitched in to help with post game picnics, the Challengers are in need of volunteers that are willing to coach and assist the team during practices and games.
Now that season is nearly here, rival baseball teams should beware. The Challengers are mentally tough and given an opportunity, they will surprise you with hustle—and a basic instinct to win. “I often tell people, we’re going to see you on the baseball field and beat you,” Linda Davis said.
Leonard M. Banks
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 20:02
- Published on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 20:02
- Hits: 446
KGHS Air Rifle Match; Virginia State Air Rifle
Three-Position Qualifying Competition
The King George High School Navy JROTC Rifle Team is having another stellar year. On Saturday, they reeled in more accolades to go with their already bursting trophy collection. Taking the top three individual awards in both Sporter Categories – veteran and novice, and claiming first and second place in Sporter Team competition, the talented KGHS students continue to carry on the winning tradition. KGHS competed against the Caroline High School and Robinson Secondary School (from Fairfax, VA) rifle teams in the match held at King George High School.
Junior Elizabeth Hampton took first place with a score of 559 in the veteran Individual Sporter Category, while Senior Sam Green came in second, scoring 543, and sophomore Kimberly Heitmeyer shortly behind, placing third with 536. Novice Individual Sporter shooters placing for KGHS were all freshmen: Adrian Haught – first place - 440, Kyle Wagner – second place - 426, and Denver Brandts – third place - 385.
While no one from KGHS placed in the Precision Competition, several students continue to improve their skills in this category. Junior Chris Braccini came in sixth from a field of twenty, shooting a score of 549.
In the Sporter team competition, the King George team of Heitmeyer, Green, Hampton, and senior Matt Reed took first place, with a combined score of 2163. Second place went to King George’s team consisting of junior Caitlin Henrickson, sophomore Brian Beverly, Haught, and Wagner, combining to score 1813. The Caroline Red team placed third. The Robinson Gold team walked away named the top Precision team.
“We have been invited to the National JROTC Championships for the last 10 or more years; as long as it has been in existence,” said Head Coach Jim Morgan, who has been coaching for as many years at KGHS and other shooting organizations such as: King George Shooting Association, Shooting Education 4-H Club, and State Small Bore team. Virginia teams qualify for Nationals by being among the top in Virginia State Air Rifle Matches. Saturday’s match at KGHS was considered one of the qualifying matches. The Foxes have taken first or second place in the Navy National Championships for the last five or more years. King George won the All-Services National JROTC Championship in 2007, when graduate Elizabeth Lyon, who attends Morehead State University on a shooting scholarship, was a senior. Lyon was the top individual shooter at that competition.
King George has been rated in the top four Navy JROTC teams since it has existed, according to Coach Morgan. The King George students practice and compete year around, including summer camps. “We have a great bunch of young people,” said Coach Morgan . “They know what needs to be done and they follow through in doing it.” There is plenty of equipment involved in this sport, and the students are the ones who take care of moving it in and out. The team spends about two weekends per month at matches.
So far this year, Hampton has earned a distinguished marksmanship badge by accumulating 30 excellent marksmanship points. Reed is close to that mark. Heitmeyer and Henrickson have earned silver marksmanship badges this year as well.
King George will take two teams to the Navy JROTC Championships beginning on February 26 at Camp Perry, Ohio, where they will try to qualify (again) for the All-Services National Championships in Fort Benning, Georgia, March 24-29.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 19:38
- Published on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 19:38
- Hits: 440
Seven teams compete at the third annual Nick Mason Memorial Wrestling Tournament
The third annual Nick Mason Memorial Wrestling Tournament was hosted by King George High School on Saturday, January 10. This year’s tournament was expanded to seven teams including King George High School, Potomac High School, North Stafford High School, Fairfax High School, Lancaster High School, Stafford High School, and Eastern View High School. The yearly tournament honors Nick Mason, a former King George student and wrestler, who was killed in action in Mosul, Iraq, in December of 2004. Nick’s parents, Vic and Christine Mason, presented the awards to all tournament winners and Mrs. Mason gave the tournament’s opening heartfelt welcome asking the wrestlers and attendees to “Remember the troops who fight for your freedom,” and to “Do everything you can to support the troops.”
“We are eternally grateful of the continued support of the community and the commitment to keep Nick’s memory alive through these memorial events. We are proud that the proceeds will benefit the Virginia Army National Guard, Nick’s Memorial Scholarship, and the King George Wrestling team,” said Mrs. Mason.
“The Mason family would like to thank the teams, coaches, wrestlers, and their families for participating in and attending the event. We would also like to extend our appreciation to the businesses and individuals who made the event a success through sponsorships, donated items, concessions, and their time and volunteerism.” In addition to the Masons, Northrup Grumman, TSC, Perry & Cathy Bowen-River Farm, ANA Instruments, King George House of Pizza, Daily Grind, and WaWa co-sponsored the tournament. Gift cards were donated by Daily Grind, JC Penney, WaWa, J Brians Tap Room, Panache, and King George Chiropractic, which were raffled off to raffle ticket purchasers.
Two mats provided wrestling action all day with individual and team scoring competitions. Two King George wrestlers, Jason Norris (140) and Ian Lynett (125), went undefeated, taking the 1st place medals. Norris’ thrilling championship match against Stafford’s Mike Lowery went to three overtimes before Norris was able to claim the victory. Earlier this season, Lowery had defeated Norris by just one point. In the second overtime, Norris sustained an injury, but that didn’t take him down. “My family is close with the Masons, and I wanted to win it for them,” Norris said.
Fairfax earned the first place team trophy with 192 points, while Stafford walked away with the second place trophy, scoring 160 points. King George came in third with 126 points, Eastern View was fourth scoring 105 points, Potomac fifth with 68 points, Lancaster sixth with 63 points, and seventh place went to last year’s champion, North Stafford with 61.50 points. MVP trophy winners were: Cory Apps, Fairfax, Lower Weights; Sam Frere, Lancaster, Middle Weights; Jordon Yost, Fairfax, Upper Weights.
Individually, nine of thirteen King George wrestlers who participated in the tournament placed, as follows: Jason Ames (103) 2nd, Vincent Eells (112) 3rd, Ian Lynett (125) 1st, Phil Hinkes (130) 3rd, Jason Norris (140) 1st, Dan Stevens (145) 3rd, Matt Giles (189) 4th, Bryan Horaist (215) 4th, and Neil Schultz (285) 2nd.
Congratulations to all of the wrestlers who participated in the Third Annual Nick Mason Memorial Wrestling Tournament. The King George Foxes Wrestling team’s next action will be on Saturday, January 17, at Freedom at 10:00 a.m. Go Foxes! And here’s to your memory, Nick…