Cody Johnston Aims For Second Title Of 2023

* Cody Johnston wins a national title at Nike Indoor Nationals last weekend.

Photo Credit: Kyle Brazeil/MileSplit New York

"It's not just running around the track. It's like, you're flying through the air, 17 feet in the air."

By Ashley Tysiac -- MileSplit

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Hobart (IN) senior Cody Johnston was born seemingly destined to be an elite pole vaulter.

When you're part of the third generation of family vaulters, it comes with the territory.

So when Johnston soared over the bar at 17 feet and 1 inch at The Armory last weekend for the first national title of his career at Nike Indoor Nationals -- and one of the first in the Johnston family's competitive history -- he couldn't help but relish in the excitement.

Watching on was Jim Johnston Jr., who serves as Johnston's coach and father. He also won the 1984 Big 10 indoor pole vault title while at Purdue. That also did not include the numerous other family members in attendance, all of whom compete in pole vault in some form or another.

The 17-1 effort made for a quarter-inch PR and moved Johnston to U.S. No. 3 on the event leaderboard this indoor season.

"I feel like there's not really a lot of pressure on me, but I put a lot of pressure on myself," Johnston said. "Just having the sigh or relief after winning, I felt (it) motivated me and boosted me even more."

But Johnston doesn't want to end his season with just one indoor title.

Why not make it two?

This weekend, Johnston made the 14-hour trek from Indiana with his family, including his coach and dad Jim Johnston Jr., to Virginia Beach for adidas Track Nationals. He's hoping to capture his second national championship in a week's time.

"Honestly, the end goal is another national title," he said. "But coming with that would be a new PR, (that) would be great, too."



        adidas Track Nationals Meet Page

        For someone who's been around pole vault since his elementary school days, Johnston certainly knows what it takes to become a contender on the national pole vault stage.

        He's had great minds to teach him, including his dad and grandpa, the late Jim Johnston, who won a national collegiate title at Purdue in 195e

        All three of them -- senior, junior and Cody -- have also earned state titles representing Hobart High School. Plus, there's Cody's brother, Riley, who also won an Indiana outdoor state pole vault championship in 2021.

        Competing in the discipline has been the 'Johnston Family Business' for over six decades now.

        "Pole vaulting requires everything," he said. "You can't be sore, you can't be sick, you can't stay up late at night, you can't eat something bad. You (have) to be 110-percent to jump at your highest potential. I feel like people don't realize that, but being dang near perfect is a big key in jumping."

        Johnston won his first Indiana state title for Hobart last spring at the outdoor championships with a 16-8 clearance, and he also hit 17-0 for the first time in April of that season at the Dick Deardurff Invite. That state win made it back-to-back years he stood atop the medal stand.

        In 2023, however, Johnston feels as if he's hit his groove.

        * Johnston discusses his pole vault win at Nike Indoor Nationals last weekend.

        In each of his past three competitions, Johnston has soared over new heights and hit 17 feet or higher each time -- 17-0.75 at MYP Vibefest, 17-0 at WL Individuals and that most recent 17-1 title-winning clearance at Nike Indoor Nationals.

        It's an adrenaline rush unmatched by anything else, he said.

        "It's not just running around the track," he said. "It's like, you're flying through the air, 17 feet in the air."

        What's the only feeling that could top that thrill? It's simple, Johnston said: Winning another indoor national title, his second in a week. 

        And he doesn't just want to earn another award for the trophy case.

        Johnston has his eyes on Maddox Hamm's U.S. No. 1 mark of 17-8.5, which was cleared just last weekend to win the other indoor championship at New Balance Nationals Indoor.

        Johnston's 17-1 clearance currently puts him third on that national leaderboard for 2023.

        If a big jump is in the cards for him, he said, it has to happen now.

        "I've been getting on bigger poles and jumping more consistent," he said.

        But even if he doesn't hit 17-8.5, he still has the family PR that he can realistically shoot for, too.

        He's just over four inches short of his father's all-time best of 17-5.5, which Jim cleared while competing for Purdue in the '80s.

        If the younger Johnston has learned anything over the past years -- and even the past weeks -- is that pole vault is a game of progression. He's seen it with his brother and he's heard it preached to him by his dad, grandpa and the countless uncles and cousins also with experience vaulting at a high level.

        A win at adidas would represent yet another step up for Johnston, looking to add more prestige to his pole vault family.

        "Just hoping to progress more, keep doing what I'm doing and keep going up in height," he said.

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