Mayetta native to represent Kansas in State Games of America
While running may be a more communal experience than some other sports, individual results are still measured by how far and how fast your legs can carry you.
For one local runner, her work has carried her onto a national stage and a great honor, as Mayetta’s Jamie Johnson-Shaffer is getting set to compete in the State Games of America in Lincoln, Neb. this August.
On top of representing the state of Kansas as a competitor, Johnson-Shaffer was also chosen to be flag bearer in the opening ceremonies of the event.
The path that brought Johnson-Shaffer to this point is a simple and familiar one, as she noted physical fitness was a big motivating factor.
After graduating from Royal Valley High School in 2001 and then getting her nursing degree from Washburn Tech in 2011, she noted she said she had a desire to get back in shape.
In 2012, Johnson-Shaffer decided to run her first half marathon and after being exposed to that atmosphere, she was hooked.
“With a lot of other competitive sports, they’re on the other team so you don’t really interact, but with running it’s completely different. There were people who would encourage you no matter what your time was or what, so it was kind of a different way of competing,” Johnson-Shaffer said.
Additionally, Johnson-Shaffer said there is a feeling of accomplishment from running a certain distance on your own two legs that she finds alluring, while she also said it has helped broaden her knowledge of the health field, leading her to become a fitness trainer and teach her own Zumba (aerobic workout) class.
“It’s brought a lot more knowledge to me as far as the health field; how important exercise is to health, how important eating is to health, everything like that,” Johnson-Shaffer said. “It’s kept me on track with that. It’s kept me pretty steady.”
Currently, Johnson-Shaffer said she competes in about six to seven races per year from April to October. She has run in two half marathons and one full marathon, but it was her experience running in the Sunflower State Games for the first time last summer that opened the door to compete on a national stage.
To qualify for the State Games of America, one must have earned a gold, silver or bronze medal from a National Congress of State Games Member State program in the current or previous two years, have medaled in the previous State Games of America or be a resident of the host state.
Johnson-Shaffer medaled at the Sunflower State Games in to earn her spot, winning her age group and finishing third overall in the female division of the 10K Cauldron Run in 2014. She followed that up this year by repeating as champion in her age division and placing fifth overall.
The general geniality of runners may have been a selling point for Johnson-Shaffer to get involved in running, but it’s still a race and getting ready to compete on a national level is a pretty good carrot at the end of the stick.
“In the running world, yeah, you do encourage everybody, but I’m still a very competitive person. When it comes to something like that, I’ve trained really hard over the last several months, so it’s motivating me to try to make myself faster,” Johnson-Shaffer said.
At the Sunflower State Games this year, nearly 40 runners turned out to compete in the 10K race. The State Games of America will be a bit of a bigger stage (and a longer, 10-mile race) and while Johnson-Shaffer doesn’t know exactly how large the field will be, she said she was informed that there are a record number of entrants in the event this year.
The State Games of America have been held all over the country, from Pennsylvania to California. While the proximity of this year’s event (in Lincoln, Neb.) was a selling point for Johnson-Shaffer to get involved, she noted she is still looking forward to seeing the competitive slice of Americana that this event entails.
“It means a lot to be able to go and be at this kind of level of competition and to represent our state,” Johnson-Shaffer said.
Initially, Johnson-Shaffer said a patient informed her of the opportunity and she noted two co-workers nominated her to be the state’s flag bearer, as they were aware of her training and knew what that honor would mean to her.
While Johnson-Shaffer still isn’t sure what to expect competing in the State Games and being a flag bearer, she said she’s been told it’s like a mini-Olympics, so it’s no time to rest on her laurels. She is excited to get this opportunity, but noted she still has her sights set high and is aiming to place in her age division.
Johnson-Shaffer and the rest of the competitors will get ready for action in Lincoln starting on July 28, while the 10-mile road race will be run off starting at 8 a.m. on Aug. 1.