For Sharon High School junior Jada Johnson, focusing on just one event during indoor track season is out of the question.
Johnson won the All-State outdoor title in the pentathlon last June at Fitchburg State University. She placed first in the shot put, long jump, and high jump, while finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles, setting a state record in the event with a total of 3,529 points.
She carried her momentum into the New England championships at the University of New Hampshire, where she earned a regional title in the long jump.
She also set a meet record in the indoor long jump on Dec. 27 during the Boston Holiday Challenge at the Reggie Lewis Center, with a mark of 5.61 meters.
Since her sophomore season, Johnson has drawn attention from a number of Division I recruiters.
“When you know you’re working with someone that good, you instantaneously have to up your own game,” said Sharon track coach Tim Cimeno. “As coaches we have to make sure we’re at the level it takes to be [Johnson’s] coach.”
This past fall, Johnson stopped playing volleyball so that she could lift weights and focus on both outdoor and indoor track. The New England long jump champion is a perfectionist.
“I focus on things I don’t do [well] all the time because if I focus on good things, it’s a bit more carefree,” Johnson said. “For All-States, it wasn’t the farthest I’ve jumped, so when I went into New Englands I was really low on their roster, which was a bit frustrating.”
This attitude and hunger for perfection is a key factor in her success, both on and off the track.
“I think one thing about Jada is that no one has ever looked at her as freshman, sophomore, or junior. She’s outspoken, she wants to win, and has always had that attitude,” Cimeno said. “She’s also such a great, funny kid and people want to follow her lead. It makes it easy for her to be a good leader.”
Johnson also has excelled in the classroom, according to Cimeno and Nick Schlierf, the Sharon athletic director. Contributing to her success, they said, is her work ethic and ability to overcome whatever challenges are thrown her way.
The indoor track team practices in the school’s hallways during the winter because the track facilities are outdoors. This presents an enormous challenge for athletes such as Johnson, limiting her opportunities to train in a number of events, such as the long jump and high jump.
A resident of Jamaica Plain, Johnson is a participant in the Metco program and travels by bus to Sharon High. Her typical school day begins at 6 a.m. and often ends with a 6 p.m. bus back home after track practice.
“I would like to run track in college,” Johnson said. “My dream is to go to the Olympics and be sponsored in either the long jump or hurdles.”
One thing’s for sure, Johnson has a number of people who believe she has the tools and opportunity to do so.
“If she wants to be an Olympian, no reason she can’t be,” Cimeno said. “It’s difficult to be an indoor track athlete in Massachusetts because you can’t really practice these things year-round. If she can go out west or down south and get those opportunities, the sky’s the limit for her.”
Thomas Herron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.