The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

    Triton Duo Earns Gold at National Finals: Whitney Johnson

    Since joining the UCSD track team half-way through her freshman year, Johnson has become one of the program greatest athletes. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

    Senior jumper Whitney Johnson has come a long way since her
    freshman year at UCSD. After playing three sports in high school, Johnson
    decided that she was ready to focus solely on academics and turned down offers
    to be a collegiate athlete. She got accepted to UCSD on her academic merit and
    was looking forward to a new experience, but the women’s track coach, Darcy
    Ahner, recognized something special in Johnson; she did not let Johnson walk
    away from the sport.

    “I thought I was done with sports and I just wanted to be a
    student for once,” Johnson said. “They tried to recruit me and I dodged Darcy
    all summer. I wouldn’t answer my phone, I wouldn’t call her back; I just tried
    to avoid her. She only caught me one time and it was when she called while I
    was sleeping and my mom put the phone up to my ear.”

    Ahner eventually backed off from the recruiting e-mails and
    calls, letting Johnson settle into her first quarter as a college student.
    Unfortunately for Johnson, and fortunately for Ahner, life as an average
    student wasn’t as thrilling as promised.

    “I got to UCSD and two months into school, after having
    already missed tryouts, I was just so bored,” Johnson said. “I talked to Darcy
    and she had me meet the team and I just started training after that.”

    For the rest of the quarter, Johnson was given her own
    extended tryout with the team to make sure that she clicked with the rest of
    the athletes and to make sure that she was willing to make the commitment to
    the track team. To Ahner’s relief, Johnson found a track-less life boring and
    decided to come back to the sport.

    Last weekend, Johnson won the national championship in the
    triple jump at the NCAA Division-II Championships in Walnut, Calif.
    Before the meet, Johnson had already been named a two-time All-American and was
    the record holder for UCSD in both the long and triple jumps, but it took her
    third trip to nationals to finally come away with a gold medal.

    “I definitely couldn’t have imagined a better way to end my
    track career,” Johnson said. “Those types of achievements are something that
    you can only dream about but when you actually get it, it’s kind of surreal.”

    Johnson’s triumph was the culmination of the success of the
    women’s team as a whole, as the Tritons took fourth place at nationals, their
    best finish since moving up to the D-II level. Johnson, who was part of the
    California Collegiate Athletic Association title team her freshman year that
    set the precedent for the team’s current successful run, sees this year as a
    logical next step in the ongoing improvement of UCSD track.

    “This year was a culmination of what prior athletes had
    started,” she said. “We had the mindset all along and we had the talent all
    along, it’s just being able to put it all together in the right place at the
    right time. The other schools are starting to see us as more of a threat and
    are starting to pay a lot more attention to what we’re doing. It’s kind of cool
    to be one of the ones that got the ball rolling on that from freshman year on
    when we first won the conference title.”

    After a sophomore slump where she missed nationals for the
    first time, Johnson came back her junior year more determined than ever. She
    was the second-ranked jumper going into nationals but ended up finishing a
    disappointing fourth, even though she did earn her first All-American award.

    Her senior season was filled with memorable accomplishments.
    Along with extending her own all-time UCSD record in the triple jump, Johnson
    became the school’s record holder in the long jump en route to being named CCAA
    Athlete of the Year and NCAA D-II Field Athlete of the Year. For an athlete
    that had always flown under the radar, this newfound attention was a little

    “It was kind of not fair [being named National Field Athlete
    of the Year] right before nationals,” Johnson said. “I like being the underdog,
    I don’t like people watching me or talking about me, I like surprising you and
    kind of just pulling one out from under you. It put a lot of extra stress on
    me; I didn’t really want to be a target.”

    Being a target or not, Johnson persevered through thunder
    storms and delayed start times to take the gold medal in the women’s triple
    jump and cap off an outstanding career in the most fitting way possible.

    Johnson’s current relationship with her coach is odd, given
    their first interactions, as for the entire summer before starting college
    Johnson avoided talking to the person who would end up having the biggest
    impact on her collegiate life.

    “The biggest factor for me at UCSD is Darcy; she is the only
    factor,” Johnson said. “She is the reason that I am the jumper that I am

    Aside from her countless awards on the track, Johnson is
    most proud of the legacy that she, and her teammates from the past four years,
    will leave to the school and is excited for the future of the program that she
    helped define.

    “We have started a dynasty and I think everybody should jump
    on board, because you don’t want to miss what’s coming next.”

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    Our Goal