Published on October 21, 2020Samford Athletics' Student-Athlete Spotlight highlights the university's outstanding student-athletes. Today's seventh episode features track and field senior Maggie Johnston.
Johnston was named the Most Outstanding Field Performer in leading the women's indoor track and field team to its fifth-straight Southern Conference championship in late February. Johnston has now been a part of four SoCon titles, and she said it has been a great experience.
"Looking back on it, it's just crazy because I came here to Samford to win titles," Johnston said. "You hope to win every time you compete, but you don't know until you get out there. Now being able to look back and see how we've done it four different times, four different ways with four different groups of girls has just been a very special experience for me, and I know for all of my teammates who have gotten to be a part of it. The five teams that have won it in a row, it is very cool to get to be a part of it."
The NCAA Indoor Championships and all of the outdoor season were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnston talked about her reaction to the season being canceled.
"For a moment, I was really worried about it," Johnston said. "It was really challenging and I was really upset, and then when the prospect of outdoor being canceled came up, I remember texting my coach and saying, 'If this gets taken away, I want to come back.' I just couldn't end with the way everything was going on, and so I knew I had to come back and finish out and get a real shot at a last season."
In April, Johnston received a postgraduate scholarship from the Southern Conference. She talked about what the honor meant to her and about her plans for her postgraduate career.
"I always had the plan of going to law school," Johnston said. "I decided that around my junior year of college. I was intending to go back to Georgia, which is where I'm from, and start law school somewhere in state. So, I applied for the David Knight Scholarship because I felt that I had dedicated so much time to both track and field and my academics throughout the years. It was just a really great honor to know that I was awarded both for my work in the classroom and also on the track because it is something that I gave so much of my time to. So, I was really fortunate to receive that and get that recognition, and it helps to go towards law school here at Samford now. I am hoping to go into immigration law. Right now, I'm just putting in the work in law school. It's as hard as people say it is, but it is very rewarding work and I'm very excited to be making those steps for a career after college."
When the NCAA announced that spring sport athletes would be given another year of eligibility, Johnston said the decision was easy to come back for another season.
"When track was taken away and I received more eligibility, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to come back," Johnston said. "I knew there was nowhere else that I wanted to compete. I didn't want to wear anybody else's jersey, I had spent four years with this coaching staff and with all of my teammates, and I just could not walk away and go somewhere else and start a new track career. This is where I wanted to finish my career from the start and, while it wasn't according to my plans, I'm really excited that I get to close out and do this fifth year here at Samford."
Johnston talked about how she feels about her four years at Samford so far.
"It's really hard to sum it up, and I try to look back on it because it has been a long four years," Johnston said. "I don't think my 18-year-old self would recognize me now. I had high expectations coming in, both to grow as a person and as an athlete, and I think I really far exceeded that. Just getting to be a part of so many championships and have my own personal records and personal wins has been really gratifying. And I know that I've made my 18-year-old self proud. I'm just excited that I get a little bit longer to grow here, and in this program and at this school. Samford is just the best environment to grow as both an athlete and as a person, and I'm very blessed that I've had these opportunities."
The Samford track and field program has developed into a consistently strong program over the years. Johnston praised Head Coach Rod Tiffin and his staff for that success.
"I'm not sure what Coach Tiffin and the rest of the coaching staff are doing in their meetings, but they really know how to bring in great athletes," Johnston said. "But I think the biggest thing is, just the winning culture we have. It's just that winning culture and that expectation that second place isn't what we show up for, and I'm really glad that Coach T. has worked that into our program because it's led to a lot of great successes for all of us."
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 2nd nationally for student engagement and US News & World Report ranks Samford 86th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,729 students from 47 states and 30 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 1st nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.