Originally created 01/26/03

Johnson weathers her storm



Remnants of a winter storm that tore across North Carolina turned Rachel Johnson's simple trip from West Virginia to Augusta into an odyssey.

"It took my mother and I 11 hours to make a seven-and-a-half hour trip, because of all the weather," she said. "I wasn't going to come down here and do nothing. I didn't sit in that car that long to not do any good.

"Like North Carolina doesn't know what a snow plow is."

The wait was worth it for the 15-year-old cutter. Johnson, of Lewisburg, W.Va., posted 222 to win the $50,000 Amateur Any Age final Saturday night in the 24th annual Augusta Futurity at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

In Johnson's first trip to Augusta, she rode Finally Got Smart and won a first-place check for $5,100. On Gin N Trona, Douglas Tyson, of Metter, Ga., finished second with 218 for $4,000. Bill Brown, of Megargel, Texas, and Shorty Lena Sprat took third (217, $2,600).

Johnson has shown cutting horses since age 5. She bought her 11-year-old mare, by As Smart As The Fox out of Red Check Bay, three years ago. Only recently the two have found success, winning the past five big events they've entered.

"I've been showing her since I got her," Johnson said. "It seems like the past year it's just started to pay off. She and I have just started to click."

Johnson rode 10th in the 13-horse competition. Before her run, she was given a word of warning.

"My trainer, Austin Shepard, said the cows didn't look too good to him," Johnson said. "I went in and he told me about this dark gray (cow) and I cut her and she was pretty good. The other two cows I cut were reruns."

Tyson had to scrap his original plan after his regular 10-year-old horse developed a sore back last Sunday.

"I had to go with my next best deal, my 4-year-old horse," he said. "I trusted him. I knew he could do it. He's got a lot of courage for a 4-year-old."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.