UC San Diego is the host of the 2006 California Collegiate Athletics Association Track and Field Championships May 4-6. UCSD is considered a strong contender on both the men’s and women’s teams. Sophomore Whitney Johnson has continued to make strides at UCSD and will continue to push her marks in the long jump and triple jump. The Bakersfield, Calif. native recently took time to discuss the upcoming championships and life as a member of the track and field team.
Q- So far, what has been your top collegiate moment?
JOHNSON- I would have to say placing second in conference last season, and then participating in Nationals. Just being a part of the Track and Field team here is something I am proud of.
Q- Is it an advantage to be hosting the Conference Championships?
JOHNSON- I guess psychologically it is. You are familiar with the track and runways. For me, I do not think it is necessarily an advantage. I like to be out of my comfort zone... it gives me more adrenaline. We do change runways, so that will help.
Q- What was the biggest transition from high school track and field to college?
JOHNSON- Definitely the weight training. There is also a different style of coaching. I have definitely let go of some old high school habits.
Q- What is a typical practice week for you?
JOHNSON- Usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be jump practice... long or triple jump. We have a running work out in intervals... some 200s, 120s... and then we have lifting that takes about two hours. Tuesdays and Thursdays are recovery days where we will do something like a hill workout.
Q- Did you play any other sports in high school?
JOHNSON- I played basketball and volleyball. It was a difficult decision to choose track. They are all a different type of atmosphere. Track and field is more individual, if you mess up, it is on you. With basketball and volleyball... there are different types of intensity and mind sets with each sport. In track, you need to really focus and amp yourself up to become aggressive. There are not many spectators in track and field. With basketball and volleyball, the fans are right there on the court. I think you have to be mentally stronger with track.
Q- What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years at UCSD?
JOHNSON- I want to be an All-American. Not just an All-American, but an All-American that has jumped at least 40 feet. I want to be a 40 foot triple jumper. Like everyone here, I would also like to become stronger academically. I want to be as strong in long jump as I am in triple jump. I have definitely improved since I got here. I am breaking a lot of old and bad habits and I am so close to that 40 foot jump... I am right there.
Q- What do you have to say about the UCSD track and field coaching staff?
JOHNSON- I love them. It is really family oriented. They are not only coaches, they want to know about being a student-athlete. My coach, Darcy, she will call me on the weekend and talk to me about ideas on where I can improve. She helps with my mindset. The coaching staff is there for you on and off the track. They are open to talk to you about anything from track to personal things.
Q- Is it difficult to balance the athletics and academics for you?
JOHNSON- It is extremely difficult for me. With me, I like to go at what I am doing, full force. When I am doing track, I like to go at it full force and forget about the academics... and vice versa. It is different than being a high school student-athlete. Each quarter I am getting better at balancing my time here at UCSD.
Q- What were some factors in choosing to attend UCSD?
JOHNSON- I was definitely looking at the atmosphere of the student-body. I never intended on doing sports here, so I was looking at the academic strengths and the vibe of the school. When I got here, I was really glad I did. Even on the track team, that vibe was everywhere. I have never been on a track team that is so close knit.
Q- You have seven brothers and two sisters... are they also athletic?
JOHNSON- My younger sister is in high school and is getting heavily recruited for basketball. My older brother was athletic in high school, but not seriously into sports. Out of all of my siblings, my younger sister and myself, are the athletes. Everyone in my family is athletic and if they choose to do a sport, they do it well.
Q- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
JOHNSON- I dance for a San Diego hip-hop team called TNR. With any extra time I have, I like to take extra dance courses... like in jazz, I like to be well rounded. I also work in the medical school and assist at a bio-tech company.