A fan of Johnston

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If I were charged (and I likely have been in some homes) for being a fan of Truitt Johnston and his family, I would have to plead guilty.

For the past three years, Truitt and his daughter, Jessica, have been a regular part of my life.

Whether in softball season or not, it has never been uncommon for Truitt and I to touch base about the current happenings at Lawrence Academy or in Washington County.

I’ve also been a fan of Jessica’s since the first time I saw her play the game of basketball.

She wasn’t the world’s best on the hardwood, but I found out just a month or so later how good she was on the pitching mound.

During her sophomore season, she was so dominant many opposing coaches had nightmares about the fact she was returning for two more years.

She helped lead that team to the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1-A softball championship during her tenth grade season. Her dad was an assistant coach on that team.

A year later, things changed.

Gennia Winslow, who had guided the Lady Warriors to back-to-back state championship appearances, stepped down from the Lawrence athletic program.

Johnston was thrust into the head coach’s seat with almost a full team returning and a state title to defend. The task would have been daunting to anyone, but Johnston never let it get to him.

Whatever pressure he felt, his wife, Kathi, felt the same. She lived and died with what happened on that field almost as much as he did.

She supported her daughter and her husband and gained all the respect I have in the world along the way.

He led the program the same way he had helped guide it as an assistant coach. He made the right decisions and put the right people in place to help them repeat.

The final game of last year’s championship series is one of the best games I’ve ever covered in any sport.

When Catherine Outten crossed home plate to secure the state title that seemed unlikely only moments before, there were tears streaming down Truitt Johnston’s face. He was proud of the accomplishments for his team.

I was proud of those young ladies as well and of their rookie head coach who had taken over a team that had one goal and achieved it.

After this season, when the Lady Warriors finished second in the NCISAA, Truitt Johnston stepped down from his job as head coach of the Lady Warriors.

With Jessica’s graduation, he’ll be moving to the baseball field for his son T.J.’s games next season.

I’ll miss having Truitt and Jessica on the softball field of Lawrence Academy. I’ll miss laughing and cutting up with them in the dugout.

I won’t miss them because they’ve become friends. We’ll keep in touch.

Lawrence Academy had a heck of run in the past four years and the Johnstons have been a big part of it. They have helped continue a long-standing tradition of excellence on that field.

Along the way, they’ve made a lot of fans and I’m glad to say I’m one of them.

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? All are welcome.

You can reach me at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or call me at 332-7211.

Be careful out there and be good sports.