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Pole vaulter aims for state crown trifecta

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A respected coach once said that you can tell that an athlete is really special when he or she has won multiple state championships. By that logic, Argyle High School senior Jessie Johnson is really special.

Johnson has won two consecutive state championships in the pole vault for the Eagles track team and will try to complete the triumvirate this spring in Austin.

Argyle track coach Kathi Olson said Johnson has been an integral part of the Argyle track program for the last three years and said she will be seriously missed next season.

“She is a four year varsity member, and she is also on the 4X100 and 100 meter hurdles, so her versatility is incredible,” Olson said. “She has meant a lot to this team, and being able to do several different things besides being such a great pole vaulter, it has just meant so much to me and the program.”

Olson said she believes that a couple of things make Olson an elite pole vaulter.

“I think one of the big things is that she is so competitive,” Olson said. “She doesn’t like to lose. There is also the fact that she has been doing it so long. I believe that she has been doing it since the sixth grade. Having that experience just gives her an edge over the others.”

The pole vault has become a signature event for AHS in recent years, as Sam Retzloff won a state championship and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Indiana back in 2009.

Johnson is headed to Auburn University to compete next school year.

Olson said the pole vault has become an event in which athletes at Argyle want to compete because of the tradition of excellence that has been established.

“I think the pole vault is very unique in that you have to be comfortable going upside down,” Olson said. “Girls typically aren’t, unless they are ex-gymnasts or cheerleaders.

“The pole vault is a flying jump, and if you’re not used to that height, it is very difficult to find somebody who’s willing to do it. Coach Ledford tries to get them as freshman, so he can build upon that foundation every year.”

Johnson said she has been pleased with her season to this point, and said that things are falling in right in line for the upcoming district meet.

“Things are going pretty much how I had hoped,” Johnson said. “I just PR’d, and I competing exactly how I want to, which is harder and better.”

Johnson PR’d in the pole vault with a jump of 13’6” and also ran her fastest times in her other two events recently as well.

A single state championship is something most high school athletes can only dream about, and with Johnson trying for her third in a row, it may seem that it is old hat for the Argyle senior.

But Johnson said that is not the case.

“It’s a situation where I know that I have to keep working hard,” Johnson said. “I know that I can’t slack off and just assume that I’m going to state, and it’s no big deal.

“For me, it is kind of a reminder that I have to keep training hard so I can get there a third time and hopefully win it again.”

Johnson said she is shooting for a jump of 14′ at state, and said she selected Auburn because she really felt at home there.

“It was just my kind of place,” Johnson said. “One thing the coach there said that really stuck with me is that it’s a small town feel with a big time fan base, and that’s what I really like.

“The people there were so nice— people would come up to me on the street and say ‘how’s your day?’ and I’m not even exaggerating. They genuinely wanted to talk. I went there, and I was like, ‘OK, this is where I want to be.’”

Johnson said she is just going to compete in the pole vault in college and said when she thinks back on her time at Argyle High School, her memories will mainly revolve around track and field.

“I will remember all of those track seasons with my teammates,” Johnson said. “We’re so close, and we always mess around and have fun together.”

Olson said the main goal for Johnson this year is to win a third state championship in the pole vault, but said she has a couple of other goals as well.

“She and I just talked about that,” Olson said. “She wants to be a three time state champion in the pole vault, but she also wants to make it in the 4X100 and 100 hurdles, as well.

“To be able to go in multiple events would just be the icing, the cake and everything else her senior year, before she leaves us for her next adventure at Auburn.”

The District 9-3A Track Meet is scheduled for April 11 & 12 at Gainesville High School.

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