Chad Johnson earns fourth TAPPS pole vault championship

By Danny Hirt

It’s been said that lightning never strikes the same place twice.

For Heritage School’s Chad Johnson, however, the number of strikes is more like four times.

Last week, Johnson picked up his fourth consecutive pole vaulting gold medal during the TAPPS 1A track and field championships held on the Baylor University campus in Waco.

In 2011, Johnson’s freshman year, he took home the crown with a height of nine feet even. From there, he improved every year — to 11 feet in 2012 and 13 feet in 2013 — until he reached the heavens with a vault that registered 14’6”.

Suffering from a high ankle sprain he’d suffered in the past few weeks, Johnson was not able to prepare himself physically the way he’d have liked. “A lot of the time I just visualized,” Johnson said. This type of practice, while not recommended, actually allowed Johnson to improve his form.

While at the recent state meet, Johnson also participated in four other events — high jump, 300 meter hurdles, 4x400 meter relay (with teammates Skylar Kitzmiller, Parker Given and Joe Lucas), and the 110-meter hurdles (where he captured three more first place awards as well as a second place finish).

But the Heritage School senior is more than just a track star; he’s also played on the school’s six-man football team that made it all the way to the TAPPS state Division II championship game back in December and as a member of the school’s boys’ basketball team that went to the TAPPS playoffs.

But of all the events in track and field, why did Johnson migrate toward pole vaulting?

Johnson said that a large factor in his choosing this event, including how he became so successful at it, is Heritage assistant track coach Matt Hoermann.

It was Hoermann, according to Johnson, who looked at him a few years ago as a seventh grader and predicted he could become a good pole vaulter.

“He’s been with me all these years,” Johnson said of Hoermann’s coaching and encouragement.

But what drive was it that led Johnson to his success? “It’s just hard work,” he explained simply. “It’s how much you want something.”

Johnson’s hard work is noted not just on the sports fields but in school. He makes excellent grades and is a born leader.

According to Heritage head track and field coach Brad Sultemeier, Johnson is a “backbone and inspiration” for the track teams that just captured second place at the TAPPS championships last week (girls’ and boys’ squads).  Sultemeier added that he’s the type of person who “inspires those around him — not just teammates and competitors, alike — to be better; not just better athletes, better people.”

And what does a born leader do just days after winning his fourth pole vaulting championship? Why, he helps chaperone a group of 10th graders on a school-related trip to the Grand Canyon, that’s what.

Always on the go, always on the move like a bolt of lightning; that’s what a born leader does.

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