'Everybody loved him': Running partner remembers Central Unified track coach

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tony Williams recalls those last, frightening moments with Donte Johnson. Williams says the two were running at Woodward Park Wednesday when Johnson suddenly stopped and fell back.

"At the moment, I knew that he was gone. I knew that he had died. I've seen people get knocked out, I've seen people faint, but there are some signs of life. But that was different," he said.

Williams and Johnson have been running together for the last ten years. For Williams, he says it was even a more simplified course.

"On that day (there was) nothing out of the ordinary, this was our normal business as usual routine," he said

Williams says there were moments where they would sprint, but that's how they naturally operated, striving always to do better, even looking decades down the road

"We always talked about the future. When I get to 65 years old, I want to run like this, when I get to 70, I still wanna be fit, healthy all this," Williams said.

Johnson was a track coach at Rio Vista Middle School, with a successful track record and adored by all.

"He has a great rapport with the kids. Everybody loved him," Williams said.

But Williams knew his friend was gone the minute it happened. When the paramedics came, they confirmed his greatest fear,

"At some point, the heart has to kick in and after so long, I knew, but I didn't accept it," he said.

The place where Donte Johnson took his last breaths is marked with roses by those who loved him. Williams honored him with a bouquet still brimming with life.

Williams says he will continue to go the distance, this time for Johnson.

"I'm still going to compete, but this gives me a whole new perspective on life and training," he said.
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