William Johns is running in the World Masters Games. (Courtesy photo)
William Johns is running in the World Masters Games. Credit: Courtesy photo

Unrest after the Freddie Gray incident and other instances of violent crime in his beloved Baltimore has motivated William Johns to become an inspiration to those young and old.
The 56-year-old and lifelong Charm City resident will be competing in the hurdles competition at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, next spring in hopes of bringing home the gold.
Most importantly, Johns said he’s hoping his representation of Maryland — particularly Baltimore — will show others that his hometown is capable of great accomplishments and incidents like Gray and others are not roadblocks to success.
“I work seven days a week and you’ve got to live life despite so much negativity,” Johns said. “I’m proud to be from Baltimore and I’m doing this so that young people can see positive things. There is all of this killing, all of this negativity that’s associated with being from Baltimore and I’m thinking that, with these games, I can make an imprint, I can show something positive about Baltimore.”
Johns will have the honor of carrying the Maryland state flag during the opening ceremonies at the World Masters Games, the globe’s largest multi-sport event held every four years and is the pinnacle sporting event for masters’ competition worldwide.
The goal of the games, which began in 1985 in Toronto, is to encourage participation in sports while competition and camaraderie are equally celebrated.
“I had a read about the Senior Olympics as I was turning 51 and I decided to try out,” Johns said. “I won silver in the 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter hurdles and gold in the 400. I realized that you had to quality in the Senior Olympics in your state to go to the nationals and I started winning medals and meeting different people.”
He participated earlier this year in the USA Nationals in Minnesota, where he qualified for the World Masters Games.
“A lady saw me wearing black and gold and asked me if I was from Pittsburgh,” Johns said. “I told her that I’m from Baltimore, where the Ravens play. I had to let her know about the positives of Baltimore.”
At the World Masters Games, Johns will compete along with 25,000 athletes from 100 countries who will be representing 28 sports and 45 disciplines.
The longtime automotive supervisor in the city’s General Services Department, Johns began track and field as a high school student in the 1970s. Years of dedication and grueling training led him to winning a state championship and a No. 1 ranking.
In 1978, Johns’ running and hurdling abilities took him all the way to the Junior Olympics, where he captured a silver medal and became a contender for the Olympics in California.
In 2011, he competed in the Maryland Senior Olympics, winning silver and gold.
He continued all the way to the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland, where his wins qualified him for the relay team that took second place.
A year later, Johns took the silver medal in the Delaware Senior Olympics and in 2015, the bronze at the National Senior Games in Minnesota.
He said his wife, Patrice Ross Johns, son William and daughter Tanaia Johnson have been inspirations. But one person that he’s hoping to see him run next year is his mother.
“She’s never seen me race for whatever reason,” he said. “But I’m going to give it my all and do something positive for Baltimore. I’m planning to go to New Zealand and give them all a great show.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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