Name: Jaden Johnson
School: Heritage Christian Academy
Q) What was your most memorable race/throw/jump/vault/moment?
My most memorable race would be the 100m at Liberty Bell my junior year. During the girl's 100 one of my friends pulled up with a hamstring injury. She had been struggling with injuries the past few seasons and was running well in the race, so this was devastating. For some reason after she got hurt I always seemed to run really well.
As I was waiting for my race to begin I was feeling a little intimidated. Coming from a 1A school I wasn't used to this kind of competition. I felt like a skinny shrimp in a land of giants.
However, I was determined to run well. I had a good start and looked up and realized "I'm actually winning!" I felt the runner in lane four right next to me, so I was pushed to finish hard. I crossed the line in first with a time of 11.13, which would end up being the fastest 1A time of the year.
I only beat the runner in lane four by one hundredth of a second, which was pretty cool. Even though I only got 13th in the meet and failed to make the finals, and even though I ran with an illegal 2.2 mph tailwind, it was still an awesome race. That was also the day I asked my girlfriend to officially be my girlfriend, so it was a pretty special day.
Q) Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
Darias Harms. Last season we went back and forth in the 100 and 200. Going in to state I held the fastest wind legal time in the 100 at 11.18.
However, Darias ran that same time at state and I ran 11.25, and he absolutely deserved it. I did get him in the 200 though, so we each got a title. Darias is a great competitor and person, and I respect him a lot.
Q) What was your greatest accomplishment?
Breaking the school record in the 100, 200, 400, and long jump. My freshman year at practice one day I looked at the record board and told our coach "Joe, one day I'm gonna have the top three spots on that board." As a freshman my times were nothing special at all. I didn't qualify for a single individual event at state, and I honestly did not expect to break the records my junior season.
Q) If you could do it all over again what would you change about your career in high school?
I would tell a younger me to appreciate the little things. As I'm waiting and hoping for a senior season, I find myself missing the team warmups, the conversations while just relaxing in the tents, bus rides, and cheering on other teammates. We train for the races obviously, but many of the best memories come off the track.
Q) What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
I take failure pretty hard, so when I perform less than what I know I am capable of, I get pretty upset. After I placed second in the 100 last season at state, I was sitting in the warmup area and Joe Packard, our coach, sat down and talked to me about the race. He then said something along the lines of "being a man is about how you respond to what happens in life." His advice fueled me to run the 200, and I'm thankful for his guidance.
Q) What will you miss the most?
I will miss my teammates and coaches the most. We are a family. Because we have a good portion of athletes who do not attend HCA, I've been able to make friends I never would've made if not for track. I've been blessed with amazing coaches who not only help me reach my best on the track but also invest in me off the track. They genuinely care about me and the entire team, and for that I am forever grateful.
Q) What advice would you give to younger athletes?
Work hard and trust your work. If you're not where you want to be, don't sit on your behind and wish. Wishing never helped anyone improve. The work you put in will lead to the results you get. If you wanna be the best, you have to work harder than the competition. As many great athletes have said "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Q) What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
I don't know what it is about Joe, but there is something about him that makes me wanna push as hard as I possibly can to make him proud. Some may not know what to call it. I call it greatness as a coach.
The thing about Joe that's different than most of the coaches I've had is that he isn't a parent. He doesn't do it because he has a kid on the team. He does it because he is passionate about track and helping athletes be the best they can be, on and off the track. I know I can call Joe about anything, anytime, anywhere, and he'll be there for me. That is so rare, and I'm lucky to have him as my coach.
Q) What are your college plans?
I am attending Cedarville University in Ohio and majoring in Worship Arts while running track and field.
Q) Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to thank God for blessing me with three (hopefully four) years of high school track and for surrounding me with incredible family, coaches, and teammates and for the lessons He's taught me through track.
To my dad, thank you for pushing me and training me in the offseason and sacrificing your time to help me improve.
To my brother, thanks for being my workout buddy and pushing me to always work my hardest.
To Joe and all of my coaches, thank you for training me to be successful on the track and investing in me as a person.
To my teammates, thank you for all the encouragement and love over these past three seasons.