Newcomb senior is mom, wife, and now … state champion
By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Special to the Times
ALBUQUERQUE, April 16, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
In a group full of the top New Mexico Class 2A long jumpers throughout the state, Allesha Blackhat-Johnson is in a league of her own.
The 17-year-old Newcomb long jumper is not only this year's state champion but she is also a fulltime mother and wife.
Johnson earned her championship title after clearing 16 feet, 9 inches at the New Mexico Class 2A state track and field meet held May 10 and 11 in Albuquerque. The Newcomb senior credited practice and motivation from her young family for helping her earn the title.
She said she's improved each meet and was able to jump well when necessary at the state level.
"I think I've gotten better … today I jumped a 16-9 and it was enough to take the title," she said. "I do think that makes me successful because I use (my daughter) as my motivation.
She said before the meet she did her homework and saw how some of her competition was jumping in the high 16s and even 17s but nerves got the best of them when it came to the big stage. She added that even the top jumper in the state from Tucumcari, who typically jumps over 17 feet, couldn't get past her marking.
"I was seated No. 2 when we came here and they were barely jumping 13, 14 feet so I think it was just nerves," she said of her competition. "It was just nerves."
Johnson also placed sixth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.74, fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.85, and fifth in the triple jump with a mark of 31 feet, 11 inches.
Tom Yazzie, Newcomb's coach, said Johnson's title was well deserved and was expected as she improved at every meet since mid-April.
"That's when I first saw her go over 16 in the long jump. We just worked on it and she's PR'd at almost every meet (since then)," he said. "She's a naturally talented, anything she does she's good at. She works really hard, she's there all the time and anything you tell her to do she'll do it."
Johnson said she picked up long jump in junior high. She said she came from a family with a long-distance running background but found comfort in the long jump.
She said she got a taste of what it was like to be successful in the sport and couldn't let it go.
"I feel like I was better at the long jump even though when I started in the seventh grade I thought it was stupid then I realized I was really good at it," she said. "I just loved it. I loved always knowing I'm going to make finals, always knowing I'm going to place, it makes me more confident."
Johnson's mother is LaVonna Johnson and her father is Joseph Carter.
In high school Johnson continued to be successful in the long jump event while attending Aztec High School as a freshman and sophomore. She eventually transferred after her pregnancy because it was convenient for her as she finished high school.
Johnson said instead of letting her decision to become a young mother put a halt to her dreams, she used it as motivation.
"What I used was people's criticism as my motivation," she said. "(People) were like telling me I had a future in (with emphasis on the 'had'), but I used that as my motivation to prove them wrong."
Two weeks after she had a child, a girl, she was back on the track running and training.
She said she joined cross-country and basketball to prepare her for her junior year of track and field and continued to move forward.
"I just pushed myself, my coach said I was peaking at the right time," she said. "I didn't want to give up and have people say 'I told you so', I wanted to be the one to say to them, 'I told you I could do it'."
Having to grow up quick also changed her mentality outside of track and field. She became more responsible and determined.
She said as an underclassman her grades were average but now she's on the school's honor list with a GPA of 3.8 and has moved from No. 17 to No. 3 in her senior class.
She also recently accepted an academic scholarship to attend New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., where she plans to study physical therapy and run for the track team as she is on their recruitment list.
Yazzie said Johnson's drive is what separates her from her competition. He said even in her unusual circumstances she's determined to succeed. He said he hopes others see her success and look to do the same.
"She's got speed and she's smart, and she performs up to the competition, when she's got to do good, she'll do good. She does better around better competition," Yazzie said. "I hope the kids see it and can feed on it and say, 'Hey I want to do track', and then go from there."
Johnson said if someone in her position could turn something that looks impossible and make it happen, then so can a lot of other young women.
Her advice: "Don't take the criticism, take it as motivation because when you take that criticism as motivation and those people that criticize you see what you have done that just changes their mind It makes them look at you a whole lot different than what they looked at you before."