Mater Dei’s Johnson defies odds with comeback

For Mater Dei pole vaulter Julie Johnson, a season that began with hopes of continuing her development into one of the state’s top vaulters appeared to be over just a week after it began.

Johnson, who finished second at the CIF-SS Division 3 finals and qualified for the CIF-SS Masters Meet last season, entered the 2013 campaign as the county’s second leading returning vaulter.

But on March 8, just six days after producing a lifetime-best clearance of 11 feet, 9 inches at the season-opening Eagle Invitational, Johnson suffered a complete tear of the ACL in her right knee while landing after a vault attempt during a home tri-meet.

Johnson, a senior and team captain, was in the process of talking to colleges at the time, but the injury quickly diminished interest in her among the majority of the schools she was considering.

“It was a very, very emotional time for me,” Johnson said. “All the support from my family, coaches, and teammates is the only thing that got me through it.”

Despite the grim diagnosis, Johnson was determined that her high school career was not going to end with an injury.

“Every single doctor that I went to said that I was supposed to be out for a year and four months,” Johnson recalled. “I just kept telling myself that surgery was not an option for me and that I was going to try every possible thing that I could to get back.”

Deciding to forgo surgery, Johnson opted for Prolotherapy, a treatment that involves a series of vitamin- and nutrient-enriched sugar water injections into her knee aimed at facilitating ligament strengthening and regeneration while minimizing pain.

She also began a physical rehabilitation program, acupuncture and biking.

Less than two months after being injured, Johnson was back on the vault runway last week at the Trinity League Finals, clearing the Division 3 preliminary qualifying height of 9 feet, 9 inches.

“Somehow, God made it possible for me to come out and do this,” Johnson said.

Mater Dei pole vaulting coach Greg Woepse was highly impressed by what she was able to do.

“It’s amazing because if you ask any doctor, they would probably tell you this is impossible,” Woepse said.

Johnson’s focus now is on trying to contribute to the Monarchs’ bid to win a CIF-SS title.

“My plan is to take it week by week and see what I can do for my team,” said Johnson, who will compete today at the CIF-SS Division 3 preliminaries at Estancia High. “I hope to help them get some points at CIF Finals so that we can try to win the title.”

Monarchs head coach Rick Martinez highlighted Johnson’s resiliency and determination as a source of inspiration for the entire team.

“What she accomplished last week at Trinity finals was remarkable,” he said.


Julie Vaulter Magazine
Julie Vaulter Magazine

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