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Johnston leaves championship legacy

MERRY HILL – She has been the most dominating presence in softball for the past three years.

Behind her right arm, Lawrence Academy bagged two state championships and appeared in four consecutive title games.

Jessica Johnston ended her competitive softball career last month with a runner-up finish in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1-A title game. As she walked off the field with her fourth consecutive team trophy and the same number of All-State certificates, Johnston entered a new phase of her life.

Next up for the ultimate Lady Warrior will be the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she will study pharmacy.

Before she makes that trek, however, she’ll have some time to look back on a career that concluded with a pair of prestigious awards at the Lawrence Academy athletic banquet.

During the closing ceremony of the year for Warriors sports, Johnston was named Female Scholastic Athlete of the Year and co-Female Athlete of the Year.

Johnston admitted she was somewhat caught off guard by being named one of the Female Athletes of the Year, along with classmate Jodi White.

“I was surprised a little,” she said. “Mainly I was grateful, excited and honored.”

As for the academic award, Johnston said she was pleased to be given an award that was based on her hard work and ability in the classroom.

Johnston has been a three-sport athlete during her Lawrence Academy career and the litany of honors she has received could fill up a book.

As she looks back on the time she spent on the fields and courts of Lawrence, Johnston said she had enjoyed different parts of each of the three sports she played.

“I like the fast pace of volleyball,” she said. “There’s always something going on. Every play is a team effort.”

During her volleyball career, the Lady Warriors experienced a rebirth in the sport and made state tournament appearances in the last two years.

As a junior, Johnston was chosen Most Dedicated in volleyball and made was selected Honorable Mention on the All-Roanoke-Chowan Volleyball Team.

As a senior, she was second-team All-Region as well as being All-Tarheel Independent Conference and All-Tournament.

Basketball was more of an event for Johnston and one she thoroughly enjoyed.

“I like the atmosphere at a basketball game n with the fans and cheerleaders and support from the crowd,” she said.

Basketball was a sport in which Johnston was brought up to varsity in the middle of her sophomore year and started for the remainder of her career.

As a sophomore, Johnston was given the Hustle Award in Basketball and earned the Heart Award as a junior.

While she was solid on the volleyball and basketball courts, Johnston’s sport was always softball.

When asked what she liked about softball, the answer was swift.

“I love everything,” she said. “I love the game and I love pitching. I love the feeling I get when I hit a hard line drive or throw a strike that throws the batter completely off.

“I love the support and friendship that comes from my team,” she added.

Where she had the most fun, she also had the most success, rolling off four state championship appearances and two state titles.

Looking back, Johnston said she would remember the 2005 championship more than anything else.

“Nobody thought we could come back and win it after the first day,” she said. “We were in the loser’s bracket and we fought back and defended our state title. That is something I’ll never forget.”

During her prep softball career, Johnston was four times chosen as All-State, is a three-time All-Roanoke-Chowan Player of the Year and a four time member of the All-Tarheel independent Conference team. She has been chosen as Most Valuable Player of her team for three consecutive years and was the TIC tournament MVP as a sophomore.

But, as she looks ahead to telling her children about the high school career, those awards aren’t the things she believes she’ll share with them.

“I think I’ll tell them it was one of the best times I ever had in high school,” she said. “I made some of the best friends I ever had and it was an experience I’ll never forget.”

During the last two years of her prep softball career, Johnston played for her father, Truitt. She said the situation had its advantages and disadvantages.

“It was cool to play for him but the only disadvantage was he was tougher on me because he didn’t want me to have everything come easy. When we left the field, it wasn’t necessarily the end of him coaching me.”

Jessica Johnston was also a member of the Beta Club, Monogram Club, SADD, SGA, was co-editor of the school yearbook and a member of FCA. Away from school, she is part of the American Legion Post 40 Junior Auxiliary and the Plymouth Church of Christ.