Tigard’s Marissa Johnson ends sophomore season with second straight state title

Tigard sophomore Marissa Johnson competes in the Three Rivers League Championship meet at Oregon City in May, where she finished first en route to a second straight state title. Adam Littman/Tigard Life
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Marissa Johnson wrapped up her sophomore track and field season with her second straight shot put state championship and her first discus state title, and she’s already thinking about ways to improve next year. 

Mainly, driving. 

Johnson, 16, expects to have the chance to drive herself to the gym next year, meaning she can do a bit more weight training throughout the season. 

“All of the power comes from your legs, but you also want strong arms when throwing heavy things,” she said. “A lot of people don’t think about it, but you really need to work on plyometrics and explosivity for those events because you’ve got to get off the ground fairly quickly while throwing.”

Whatever training Johnson has done so far must be working. She caught the Oregon track community a bit by surprise by winning the shot put state championship in her freshman season. She also finished second at the state meet in discus. 

She knew she was coming into her sophomore season with a lot more attention on her, which Johnson said did affect her some this year. 

“It wasn’t as much excitement; it was more of a sigh of relief,” she said about the state titles. “There were more expectations since last year. I wasn’t expected to do that well last year. Now it’s like I have to do it until I graduate. I have to fix my mentality on that, and not focusing on what other people expect of me.” 

Along with increased expectations, another odd wrinkle of Johnson’s success meant that often times she was competing mostly against herself. As a shot put and discus thrower, you’re already out there on your own already, but Johnson was also so far ahead of the competition that often times there was nobody within a few feet of her throws. 

Her top shot put throw came in the Three Rivers League Championships, with a throw of 45 feet, 9.25 inches. No other athlete in League 6A hit 40 feet in shot put this season at any event. 

Johnson’s best discus throw was 145 feet, 11 inches, which she did in Tigard’s first meet of the season. The farthest discus throw in the state this year by an athlete other than Johnson was 130 feet, 7 inches. In just two of her 11 events this season Johnson failed to reach 130 feet in discus. 

She has come a long way since she started learning shot put in second grade. Her family moved from Minnesota to Oregon, and Johnson said her older sister joined a track team, so she did, too. The night before her first meet, her mom taught her about shot put using bocce balls in their front yard. 

Johnson said she took to shot put immediately and started discus in fourth grade. 

“I really didn’t want to run when I did track,” she said. “I still don’t.”

Up until sixth grade, Johnson said gymnastics was her primary sport, and that she also played soccer. In eighth grade, she dislocated her left shoulder and labrum playing soccer, and while she throws with her right arm, it was enough for her to focus solely on track and field moving forward. 

Now Johnson trains and competes in track and field year-round. She’s a member Super Throwers Track Club out of Oregon City. Johnson expected to compete in the Nike Outdoor Nationals earlier this month, which took place after our press deadline. 

Last year, she finished second in the event in discus in the Emerging Elites event, and scored top-10 finishes in both shot put and hammer throw. The school season doesn’t offer hammer, but Johnson competes in hammer in outdoor meets and weight throw at indoor meets for her club team.

Johnson hopes to earn All-American status in the hammer throw at the outdoor nationals this year. She’s also looking forward to another chance to compete at Hayward Field, the track and field stadium at the University of Oregon, which has hosted Olympic trials, USA Track and Field championships, and NCAA championships. 

It’s also the site of the Oregon high school state championship meet. 

“It really never gets old going to Hayward,” she said. “It’s such a cool thing. Oregon is spoiled for track. If I still lived in Minnesota, state meet would be at a high school. The state meet is so much more hyped being at Hayward. It’s one of the nicest, if not the nicest, track fields in the world.”

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