October 25, 2021

Homer grads shine at Empire 8 championships

The couple that runs together stays together. Homer High alumni Brenna Johnson and Grant Stokoe were two of the top runners on the Trojans track and field and cross country teams from 2014 to 2018.

Johnson won Section III titles in the 400-meter dash and the 4×400-meter relay before focusing on varsity basketball. Stokoe was the ross country team MVP 2016 and 2017 and the track team MVP in 2017 and 2018.

Combine that with going to the same day care together and having classes together almost every year since third grade, and it’s no wonder they’ve been dating for the last three-plus years — although they don’t let their relationship and schools’ rivalry get in the way of their goals.

“We both agreed that dynamic between us is motivational, but it is all a fun competition,” Johnson said. “We do not compete in many of the same events, so it is hard to determine who is a better runner, but we like to joke about it at times.”

After graduating from Homer, Stokoe joined the track and cross country teams at St. John Fisher.

“I like to think that they wanted me there because of my personality and who I am as a person,” Stokoe said. “As for the schools I was considering, I looked for a smaller school that had a great campus environment, academics, and team, which was true for Fisher.”

Johnson enrolled at Nazareth, but was not recruited for any athletics teams. But it was only a matter of time before she joined the track team.

“I chose (Nazareth) for their physical Therapy program and deciding to do track came at a later date,” Johnson said. “I was interested in getting involved on campus varying ways, and doing a sport seemed to be a great option. After training with the team for a couple of months, I realized this would be a long lasting fit for me and bettered my college experience significantly. Coach (James) Goss did not have a lot of information on me, since I stopped doing track my sophomore year of high school, but he said he recognized my speed and work ethic in fall conditioning, and the team would be a good fit for me.”

Johnson and Stokoe competed at the Empire 8 Indoor Track and Field Championships in March, and they were both among the top competitors, with Stokoe and St. John Fisher winning the men’s team championship and Johnson and Nazareth finishing second in the women’s division.

Johnson won the Women’s Track Athlete of the Meet Award after winning the 60-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and 4×400-meter relay. Stokoe won the Men’s Track Athlete of the Meet Award after winning the 800-meter run, mile run and 3,000-meter run.

Johnson had extra motivation to win big after some disappoitment last season. “My final race last season was the 400-meter dash at our Regional meet, and although it was something I was very proud of, I felt a sense of disappointment in missing Nationals by less than a second in that race. I used that race as my motivation throughout quarantine and into this indoor season, which allowed me to have great success within our conference. I set very high expectations for myself when it came to the Empire 8 meet, which created a lot of nerves around each race. When it came to the day of the conference meet, I tried to calm myself and just go out there and race for myself, so when I experienced the success I did, I felt a great amount of relief and excitement. I met my own expectations and was able to help my team to the closest we have ever come to winning the conference title. Missing it by two points has created even more motivation for outdoor conference, and I will hopefully be able to bring the same energy to the meet for our team.”

Stokoe felt a sense of not only accomplishment, but relief.

“I was pleased and relieved because I knew I put in a lot of work toward my training, but that was after the last event,” he said. “After the first two, I kept thinking I had more work to do, and I was excited that I still had races left.”

Stokoe and Johnson don’t let their relationship or their schools’ rivalry get in the way of achieving their goals. In fact, their relationship is a bit of a motivator.

“We both agreed that dynamic between us is motivational, but it is all a fun competition,” Johnson said. “We do not compete in many of the same events, so it is hard to determine who is a better runner, but we like to joke about it at times. This has led to a joke that I won more events at conference, but that’s only because they are shorter distances and I am able to compete in more events with the setup of the schedule. It is mainly just a dynamic to hold each other accountable and keep one another motivated.”