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Side track keeps Air Force rookie Ella Johnson on home front as Demons XC assistant coach

A graduate of Glenwood Springs High School and an Air Force Academy track and field rookie, she returns to the Demons this fall as an assistant cross-country coach, after a football injury sidelined her planes.
John Stroud/post independent

Ella Johnson thought about the risk when she decided to wrap up her senior year at Glenwood Springs High School by playing football and bidding for another chance at a 4A track meet.

Johnson, who was recruited last fall to run track and cross country for the Air Force Academy, was on track in late April after qualifying to run in the 3,200 meters and as a member of the Lady Demons 4×800 relay team at the Colorado High School Track and Field Championships May 19-21.

She would have been a top contender, having placed fourth statewide in the 3200 her junior year and helped this year’s 4×800 relay team to a third-place finish.



Johnson had just returned from a hiking trip with her outdoor education class on April 26 when she made the decision to meet her father, Erik Johnson, at Fruita so they could go to a game football at Montrose that had major implications for the playoffs.

“I wasn’t even supposed to play,” she recalls. “But we did it just before half-time, and I got into the game.”



With about 2 minutes left to play, Johnson was dribbling the ball downfield when it rolled a bit too far past her.

“I walked with my left leg trying to keep control, and my knee is hyperextended,” she said.

An MRI a few days later confirmed his worst fear – a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“I was a little worried, just with the craziness of the schedule, and also the risk of injury,” Johnson said of her decision to continue as a dual-sport athlete, which she had done during his previous spring seasons at GSHS. .

“When I spoke to my coach at the Air Force Academy, he said I would never have the opportunity to play football again, so he encouraged it,” she said. “And I wasn’t ready to let go either. So I was happy to have been able to play one last time.

She managed to skip track workouts by running and training on her own to stay in top shape.

When she injured her knee, her immediate thought was not being able to go to the Air Force Academy as planned, where she had already been accepted. The injury was an automatic medical disqualification for her commitment to cross-country and track, at least for the coming year, so she decided to wait a year and reapply for admission to the military academy. from 2023-24.

“When everything started to settle, that’s when I was afraid that my football team could not qualify for the playoffs, and that I could not finish my football career on a high note, and that I wouldn’t go to the state for the track,” she said. “It was a bummer, but in the long run, it was more about the future. “

Johnson now plans to take a part-time load of online classes through Brigham Young University so she gets a jump on her academic credits but doesn’t lose a year of athletics eligibility, while keeping an eye out. on his readmission to the AFA.

She also undergoes intensive physical therapy so that she can resume her commitment to the Falcons’ cross country and track teams.

In the meantime, she approached GSHS cross-country head coach Aidan Goldie to help coach the Demons this fall, and was added to the roster of assistant coaches.

“I thought it would be a good way to stay involved,” Johnson said. “My dad has been a football coach since I was little so coaching runs in the family and I always thought I would want to do it at some point. So this is just a little intro to that. .

Goldie was happy to see her continue on the team.

“Even when I was coaching Ella, she was already like our team’s fourth coach just because of her leadership skills and the respect she had among her teammates,” Goldie said.

Since she’s not too far removed from her own prep experience, she thinks she might have some advice for those who might be considering running for college – and whether it’s a good idea to double up with two sports in one season.

“I would do it again,” Johnson said. “I love both sports too much not to do them both.

“But it is essential that (student-athletes) have good time management and know that your risk of injury may increase because you are training a lot all the time. A lot of it is about making sure you recover properly and doing everything you can to prevent injuries from occurring.

Goldie agreed with this approach.

“From a coaching perspective, I always look at it as if I’m coaching the human first, the student second, and the runner third,” he said. “Whatever makes them happiest; I just want to be able to support their goals and dreams as best I can.

Johnson said she also looks forward to coaching some of the athletes she has helped mentor over the past few seasons as a teammate.

Practices for most fall sports officially started this week, while school is scheduled to start Aug. 17 for Roaring Fork schools. The Demons boys’ and girls’ cross country teams open the season at the Grand Junction Central Warrior Invitational on Aug. 20.

The Glenwood Demon XC Invitational also returns this season, scheduled for September 17 at the CMC-Spring Valley Gates Soccer Fields complex. And, Glenwood Springs is set to host the 4A Regionals on Oct. 20 at a location to be determined.

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