Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Al Rose 

Samantha Johnson, a scholar and two-sport star


Al Rose

Sam Johnson was among the Northland leaders with 89 strikeouts this season.

Willow River graduate Samantha “Sam” Johnson was an honor student and two-sport star. “I earned honor cords and was in NHS (National Honor Society) for two years,” said Johnson. “I was president of NHS this year.”

Sam was also very active on the Student Council while playing basketball and softball for the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels. “I was Student Council President this year,” said Johnson. “I was also in FCCLA which is Future Community Career Leaders of America. I was a class officer the last three or four years. I guess my GPA was 3.3 to 3.4 and my class ranking was 10th in a class of 28.”

When asked how she balanced it all Sam replied, “You have to know your priorities first. You already know, of course, you have to get and keep your grades up to play sports. I tried to get homework done right when I got it. I hated homework and I can say that. I just got it done as soon as possible. I really did like a lot of my teachers. As far as favorite class, that was gym. I liked my accounting classes and my welding class. Those two classes helped my decide what I might want to do in the future. A lot of people have said, ‘That’s an odd mix.’ I did not know what I might want to do until about half way through my senior year. Business Management is what I’ll start with in the fall. As far as welding, I did some of that this last semester and I really always enjoyed being in the shop with my dad. I might see welding as a future opportunity. I like to stay active. It’s a cool skill to have. I like to do things out of the ordinary.”

Sam talked about basketball. “I got a varsity jersey my freshman year,” she recalled. “That was exciting. As far as going back to earlier memories, that’s third grade. I just did it. My parents didn’t play or anything like that. I just got interested in it and I’m glad I did. I was able to letter all four years. First I was a forward and I kind of stayed at forward. I would some times play a guard spot if that was needed. The first year I started playing in ninth grade was different as there were not a lot of Willow River kids anymore. I met and made friends with Moose Lake kids. We met in practice and started to play together better as a team. There used to be more Willow kids, but that kind of thinned out by varsity.”

Johnson addressed the number of different coaches over the years. “Although there were a number of different coaches, I believe that many did teach me something new,” she said. “I got the closest to those coaches. There was Andrew Miller and I learned a lot from Joe Adamczak. We also had Eric Ecklund and Becky Jackson. As far as the skill that was difficult for me; that’s shooting. I always focused on that. One game you’d be on and the next game you’d be off. It was something I always needed to practice and learn to stick to proper form and technique and release. Defense was just plain old determination. When I was younger I enjoyed the older girls and then it was girls like Tayler Dixon and Shaelyn Halverson. I do believe the whole team got closer this year. It was nice to have team chemistry. The most fun part of basketball is playing as a team and to have fun doing that. I’d sometimes get mad if I did poorly, but it can be a natural feeling to want to do the best you can. The trick is to move on and to learn from it. What I’ll miss most is the team and being part of seeing the girls improving and having fun doing that.”

Sam was a five-year varsity softball player and most known for her pitching prowess. “I did letter all five years,” Johnson remarked. “At first it was right field and pitcher from that point on. Chloe Maloney and I switched off some this year, but I pitched most of this year and last year’s games. Chloe will be a senior now and take that over. Throughout the earlier years coming up to varsity I’d sometimes play short, first and outfield.”

Johnson was about in the middle of the pack among the Northland's leaders this years. “I think I had 89 strikeouts in the regular season,” she said. “That Madison Olson from Two Harbors had over 200. When we played Two Harbors she had one of her off nights. Somehow it was the slower pitchers we’d have a harder time hitting. A favorite memory was when KK (Kaitlyn Greene) had two home runs in the game when we beat Esko at Willow River. That was awesome. I think we ended up 10-7. We had played Cloquet early on in a scrimmage and had some trouble with them. By the time we played them in the Section tournament they had really improved. They had some great hitters and that Duprea girl was a good pitcher.”

Sam talked about her progress as a pitcher. “I did not like to throw the change-up much,” she admitted. “Chuck Swanson was some one who helped us a lot. I had gone to a few pitching camps at UMD and they helped some. A lot of it is technique and form. I had a fastball, a rise ball, a drop ball and that change-up. I tried to throw a curve a little. Katie Youngberg was someone who was able to throw one of those. I was a right handed batter. It was Andrea Youngberg at .500 and KK at .468 with six home runs as far as our best hitters. I got one home run. That was at Hinckley-Finlayson and that was exciting. I don’t remember what the score was, but we won. I liked pitching a lot. You pretty much have to like it. It was fun this year as after a pretty slow start we rattled of like six wins in a row with Esko being one of those. I liked playing when I was younger, too. I am related to Molly and Emily Wasche and that was fun playing with them. I’d play up, meaning I played with a lot of older girls when I was younger, and that was fun.”

Johnson talked about the future and her gratitude to her parents. “I’ll be going to WITC (Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College) in Superior,” she stated. “I’ll be in Business Management and I’ll start a welding program after business or possibly sooner. My parents, Jason and Jacki, have done so much running around for me. There were there on the good nights and the bad nights and all those long tournaments. They influenced me and supported me in everything, not just sports. I’ll miss the small town and friends and family and knowing a lot of people. I’ll be able to be around and I like that. I’ll be here for some of the games I’m sure. I’m a Willow River girl. I know the community. My parents are from here and so are my grandparents. I want to thanks the coaches, the schools, the family and friends who have supported me throughout all the years.”


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