News Ticker

Alumna training for 2016 Olympics

By Miranda Palmer

RUN: Johnson placed 13th at the 2015 IAAF Track and Field World Championships. (Photo provided)

Alumna Lauren Davenport Johnson (class of 2009) recently returned to Huntington after competing in Beijing, China, representing the USA in the 1,500 meter run at the 2015 IAAF Track and Field World Championships where she placed 13th — one spot short of qualifying for the finals.

Struggling with putting down her spikes for ten days during a recent visit home, Johnson said she is ready to begin training again.

She is now competing for a spot on Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “It was nice resting for a few days,” Johnson said. “But now I’m just itching to run again.”

Training to professionally compete in her sport is Johnson’s full-time job. It is something she said she did not think of doing until her senior year of college.

She attended the university for four years, participating in basketball, track and cross country her last semester. Johnson garnered All-American honors in all three sports. However, she came to the university primarily for basketball.

“There would be few players I’ve coached in my 30 years that worked harder on improving their skills and conditioning than she did,” Lori Culler, women’s head basketball coach, said. “She was always someone who could do anything she put her mind to, so it isn’t a big surprise to see what she has achieved on the track in such a short period of time.”

Running has not always been Johnson’s focus — or her favorite sport. Although she ran track at Huntington North High School, as well as at the university, she said basketball was her first love at four-years-old and remained her main focus throughout high school and college.

“I always thought of myself as a basketball player who ran to stay in shape for that,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t even until my senior year that I really even thought I was to go on.”

By the time Johnson was a senior, she said she felt she had potential to run competitively at a much higher level. She decided to go for it. After her last semester, she and her husband, Nick Johnson, moved to Oregon so she could begin training professionally.

Her loyalty to Huntington, as well as her accomplishments, have earned respect and admiration throughout the community, Mayor Brooks Fetters said during a speech at Huntington North High School earlier this month. He proclaimed September 11, 2015, as “Lauren Johnson Day” in Huntington to commemorate her dedication, discipline and achievements.

Throughout the year, Johnson trains across the globe, and named Belgium as one of her favorites. Success, however, comes at a price.

She and Nick must spend months apart at a time, only returning home to see family an average of twice a year for two weeks.

“I like getting to see the different countries and cultures, but I travel for work,” Johnson said. “There may be one day where I get to do touristy things, but when I’m there, I have a purpose, and it is to train or compete, so it isn’t just about seeing the world.”

After making the World Championship semi-finals and coming close to qualifying for finals in the 1,500 meter run, Johnson said she has her sights set higher —  to qualify for the 2016 Olympic team and progress further than her most recent accomplishment.

“I’m not discouraged about not making finals,” Johnson said. “The only way I will feel as if I’ve failed is if I don’t push myself as far as possible and reach my full potential. That’s what it’s all about.”

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