VAULTER VAULTER

Athlete of the Year: Sequoyah’s Johnson vaults into top spot

CANTON — Alexa Johnson’s final season at Sequoyah was marked by her share of highs and lows.

Johnson, who will be continuing her career as a pole vaulter next year at Louisiana-Lafayette, won the Class AAAAA state title in that event when she cleared a mark of 11 feet, 9 inches

In addition to the pole vault, Johnson competed in the high jump, 400-meter relay and 300 hurdles.

For the highlights Johnson experienced, a low point of her season came during the county meet when Sequoyah coach Lorri Little forgot to pull Johnson out of the 100 hurdles after entering her in another event. As a result, Johnson competed in the pole vault, high jump, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles during the county meet — one event more than meet rules permitted.

Because of that, Johnson was disqualified from each of the events.

“We needed a high jumper,” Little said. “Alexa filled in and got first, but I forgot to take her out of the 100 hurdles. She was disqualified from all races. It was my error.”

Instead of hanging her head, Johnson used the moment to learn.

“It stunk, because I’d actually done pretty well in all my events,” Johnson said. “I didn’t get to actually have those places. I knew how I did and other people knew how I really did. It made me make sure I checked all my schedules, that I could actually run an event. It pushed me to do better to prove that I could do it again.”

Johnson went on to win the Region 7AAAAA title in the pole vault for the second straight year before winning the Class AAAAA sectional and state title.

For rising above the competition, Johnson is the 2015 Cherokee Tribune Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Aside from the county meet, Johnson placed first in the pole vault during each meet she entered. Among her many victories were the Etowah Invitational, the Woodstock Invitational and Roswell Relays.

Over the course of Johnson’s four-year career, she placed first in the pole vault in more than 25 competitions.

The medal Johnson won at the state meet now hangs in her bedroom, next to her other medals. While she treasures it, she looks forward to the competition she will find at the next level.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” Johnson said of her future with the Ragin’ Cajuns. “I’ve already met some of my teammates and they seem really encouraging and ready to bring me into the team with them.”

For the first time, Johnson will become a full-time pole vaulter. Up until this point, she competed only during the high school season, as other sports commanded her time throughout the year.

Johnson got her start as a pole vaulter in the eighth grade.

“I went out there the first time and jumped over the bar,” she said. “It was an adrenaline rush. I just wanted to keep doing it.”

When she was an eighth-grader, Johnson was not allowed to compete in meets under county rules at that time, but she attended every practice that season and never missed attending a meet. As a freshman, she got her first taste of competition and steadily climbed the ranks. As a junior, she tied for second in the state meet.

While each pole vaulter has their own strengths, Johnson feels hers is in her mental approach.

“You have to be able to push through, even if it’s 900 degrees outside or it’s hailing or snowing,” Johnson said. “You have to know you can get that new height. You have to be able to push through.”

Kurt Wheeler, the pole vault coach at Sequoyah, said it was Johnson’s dedication that has made her great.

“She always asks for one more vault,” he said. “I’ve seen blood literally dripping of her hands. I’ve never had to force her or any of my female athletes to take one more vault. She has always wanted this.”

From:  http://cherokeetribune.com/view/full_story/26711649/article-Athlete-of-the-Year–Sequoyah-s-Johnson-vaults-into-top-spot

Alexa Johnson

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