The GCU manager becomes famous for track and field titles
By Paul Coro
GCU News Bureau
The heptathlon defines the life of Jackie Johnson Powellwhose family of five children and two dogs she must raise with her husband has become a seven-event circuit.
Johnson-Powell left an indelible mark Grand Canyon University almost 10 years in the field of admissions, of which the last six years as admissions manager at universities. But the marks the Olympic heptathlete left on timepieces, in jumping pits and on throwing fields in the mid-2000s will forever reverberate in athletics circles.
The Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame said so, enshrining Johnson-Powell as part of their inaugural class with the likes of Jesse Owens, Jackie Joyner-KerseeSteve Prefontaine and Wilma Rudolph.
The US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association inducted Johnson-Powell and 29 other college greats earlier this month in Eugene, Oregon. Johnson-Powell became the first four-time NCAA heptathlon champion (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008) and also won three consecutive NCAA indoor pentathlon titles (2006-08).
With her larger-than-life image on a banner outside Oregon’s Hayward Field and an awards ceremony where she shared the stage with Owen’s grandchildren, Johnson-Powell hit more than ever the importance of her career during induction week into the Hall of Fame.
“People keep saying, ‘You’ve done so many things,’ and I keep saying I’m so honored and so blessed that I don’t even know what to say,” Johnson-Powell said. “I’m in with the GOATs (Greatest of All-Times). I’m like, ‘What have I done?’ People say, “What do you mean by that?” It’s hard for me to care about because I’ve been so humbled throughout my career.”
Johnson-Powell grew up in Yuma, Arizona, where her mother would send her to the racetrack with her older sister to vent her incessant energy.
When she qualified for the Junior Olympics in the 400m in her freshman year, her coach kept trying other disciplines. That eventually made her a 14-time high school state champion (four times high jump, four times long jump, three times triple jump, and three times hurdles).
Johnson-Powell went to Arizona State University with a five-year plan to compete in track and field and play basketball, but her multi-event ability overwhelmed the multi-sport idea. It put her on a track to set the college scoring record in the pentathlon (4,496 points) and third all-time in the heptathlon (6,276) while helping the Sun Devils to their last national championships (a 2007 indoor/outdoor – Sweep and 2008). hall title).
“The determination, the perseverance, the mentality of never giving up, hard effort through good and bad,” Johnson-Powell said of an era that culminated in her competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics but withdrew due to injury. “It wasn’t all easy. None of this was easy. A lot of blood, sweat and tears flowed.
“Life is not easy. But you wake up every day, give 110% and let everything fall by the wayside. You carry on the next day. I fell down quite a few times, picked myself up and got it right the next time.”
Those are the lessons that carried over into her GCU career, which began in 2012 when she asked Lope’s track and field coach tom flood for a letter of recommendation, which he kept.
“I think Jackie has all the qualities an admissions officer should possess (great work ethic, team player, personal integrity),” Flood wrote.
Jackson-Powell occasionally meets with Flood’s student-athletes, and she has become close with Flood, the associate head coach Death Lehmann and assistant coach Chris Riggs.
“They’ve become family to me,” Johnson-Powell said.
“It was a great honor to see Jackie inducted into the Collegiate Track & Field Hall of Fame with the star-studded junior class,” said Flood. “She is by far the most decorated student and athlete in ASU history and she has done a fantastic job working for us at GCU.
“As great an athlete as Jackie was, she is an even better person and has done a great job as an admissions consultant and now as a regional manager, but I still wish she was part of my coaching staff.”
Johnson-Powell was shocked when she got the call that she would be part of the first Hall of Fame class, but she was left speechless when she saw a list of idols, pioneers and superstars that made up the class of 30 .
“Even during the ceremony I said I don’t know if I’ll ever find the right words to form sentences or paragraphs about how it really feels to be introduced with the idols I looked up to, especially Jackie Joyner ” said Johnson – said Powell. “She was my idol. She was the heptathlete and guru of combined disciplines and had my initials. Ever since I was 9 years old and told I could be in the Olympics one day, I’ve wanted to be like Jackie Joyner and here I’m inducted with her.”
When it came to induction, Johnson-Powell’s spotlight was just as bright as Joyner-Kersee’s, Carl Lewis and other. Their banner hung between those of the great ones Merlene Ottey and Suzy favor. Her image covered the stadium’s jumbotron.
Unlike her NCAA championship titles, that honor could be shared with her husband, the director of Banner Health Services Tyrone Powell Jr.and her five children – amiyah14; Josiah11; Braxton6; jayla, 3; and Zoeriah16 months.
The memories and lessons come back to campus too.
“I love GCU with all my heart,” said Johnson-Powell. “I’m bleeding quite purple. GCU has done amazing things for me, my family and so many families. I’m glad GCU chose me to be here because it’s so much fun to be a part of this groundbreaking school. It’s fun to say that I’m part of this pioneer. It’s like those pioneers in athletics that helped open the door for me.”
Contact Paul Coro at 602-639-6841 or [email protected]
Terms and conditions today: The former Olympian gives the boot camp a ride