Stat-crossed lovers separate from the pack

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Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor

The Illinois Wesleyan University track team is full of special athletes and special bonds. One of those special bonds is that between seniors Jeff Toraason and Kristen Johnson, a couple who has been competing together for the past three and a half years.

“It’s certainly nice to see each other every day,” said Toraason. “Being on the same team makes it easy to support each other.”

At the Keck D-III Select Meet on Saturday, Feb. 7, both Johnson and Toraason smashed their previous personal records.

In the 60m, Johnson surpassed her lifetime record on her way to a 7.99 second run. “Half the battle for me was breaking eight seconds, and I finally did that. It should put me in good shape for conference,” Johnson said.

In and of itself, a 7.99 second run is not quite fast enough for national competition, but that all could change. “Really, the difference between my time and national times comes down to a good lean, a good start. I think it’s attainable,” said Johnson.

Toraason took part in the DIII heptathlon, an event where contestants do battle in the 60m dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60m hurdles, pole vault and the 1000m run.

He broke an Illinois Wesleyan school record in the second round. The previous record was 4,806 points after two rounds, and after Toraason’s impressive weekend the record is now 4,847 points.

How do they go about congratulating each other after such momentous occasions? By playing it cool, of course.

“We usually just go about our business as usual and congratulate each other like we would anyone else on the team,” Toraason said.

Business as usual. Let it be known that both Johnson and Toraason were a bit hesitant to brag about themselves in any way. It’s fair to say that both prefer to let the numbers speak for themselves, as they quickly referred me to the TFRRS (Track and Field Results Recording System) website instead of talking about their own scores.

Speaking of numbers, 2015 marks their fourth Valentine’s Day together. The question you’re asking is: do they have special plans?

“Hardly,” said Toraason with a chuckle.

“We’ll probably go see Fifty Shades of Gray,” said Johnson, looking over at her boyfriend with a grin.

Romantic events aside, the two can’t help but look toward the future sometimes.

“Doing track together has kept us grounded,” said Johnson. “It’s kept us focused on the important things. I think the hard work we put into our relationship translates into running and vice versa.”

After life at Wesleyan, the two both plan to attend graduate school – separately. Toraason plans on taking a year off before applying to veterinary school, while Johnson will head to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on the law track.

“Being on the track and field team at Illinois Wesleyan has been a mystical roller coaster ride filled with the highest and lowest moments of our entire lives,” Johnson said. “It may give us hell sometimes, but when the dust settles and the ticking clock that is our careers halts, I think we’ll both realize that the journey was more than we could have ever hoped for.”