Center Grove High School senior soccer player Hanna Johnson has no doubt what earned her a scholarship to play soccer at Indiana University.

“Weightlifting completely changed me as an athlete,” said Johnson, who signed with the Hoosiers last month. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without weightlifting.”

Johnson credits Center Grove’s strength and conditioning coach Marty Mills for inspiring her.

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“He’s meant so much to me in my high school career,” said Johnson, who verbally committed to Indiana before her junior season. “Weightlifting has grown in importance to me throughout high school.

“I don’t think I’m taking it too much more seriously getting ready for college because I always took it seriously.”

Weightlifting means so much to Johnson that she plans to major in exercise science at Indiana, hoping to become a strength and conditioning coach.

Johnson scored 29 goals as a senior to help lead the Trojans (16-4-1) to the Class 2A semistate semifinals in the fall. Center Grove lost in the semistate final in 2013.

“She caused havoc her last two years,” Trojans coach Mike Bishop said. “It was fun to watch her play.”

Johnson finished her career with 56 goals and 40 assists in four varsity seasons.

“My stats would show that I became a better shooter, but I don’t think that’s true,” Johnson said. “I think overall I became more of a better team player. Doing that made me technically stronger. Our team was really solid all together. That made me improve a lot. My technical ability really improved, giving give-and-go passes with my teammates.

“I would say I was more consistent and dependable in the big games. Before in big games sometimes you get nervous and psych yourself out.”

Johnson embraced her role as a senior leader.

“I wanted to be a role model for the young players,” she said. “I wanted to do the best I can and show them that hard work is really important. That’s the most important factor in being successful in soccer.”

In addition to the strength conditioning, Johnson is working on her fitness and speed with the Nike SPARQ yo-yo test, or the beep test, a 20-yard shuttle run.

“You have to run 20 yards and back before the beep,” Johnson said. “Then (the beep) gets faster and faster. You keep running as fast as you can. As you get more tired, (the beep) gets faster.”

Johnson and fellow Indiana signee Cassidy Blacha, from Avon High School, have played together on a Zionsville Youth Soccer Association team. They first played together for Westside United club team as eighth-graders.

“We just got closer as we started playing club together for Zionsville,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to play with her at IU. It’s nice to know that somebody in my same age group that I’ve known for awhile and is just as competitive as a soccer player as I am is going to be there.”

Johnson, who is subbing on the Dynamo club team and training with the younger Zionsville Youth Soccer Association team, will attend summer school and start training with her Indiana teammates.

“I really want to make an impact as a freshman,” she said.

Bishop likes her chances to do just that.

“It will be fun to see her against competition that is equal or better,” Bishop said. “I think she’ll hold her own just fine.”

Johnson’s energy will be a major factor in her favor.

“She’s got a high motor,” Bishop said. “She is either full speed, or she’s standing. She doesn’t have a different (gear). If someone has the ball near her, she’ll just chase her down and do what she can to get the ball back. She’s very tenacious as a soccer player, which is great.

“Hanna is definitely knowledgeable about the game. She works at it consistently. She loves it, too. By this time, most kids are burned out, broken or jaded on the whole process. But Hanna is playing like a little kid, all out and having fun.”

The Johnson File

Name: Hanna Johnson

School: Center Grove

Sport: Soccer

Position: Forward

Height: 5-foot-8

Born: July 17, 1996

Family: Parents Kenny and Kelly Johnson; two sisters, Hailey (21), Holleigh (15) and Kyler (13)

Favorite class: Weightlifting

Favorite music: “Jason Derulo. I like to listen to him a lot before my games. If I’m weightlifting or getting ready for soccer, I like to listen to rap.”

Favorite TV show: “I really like ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ and my family still watches the Disney channel a lot.”

Favorite athlete: “Mia Hamm has been my favorite athlete since I was little.”

Favorite food: Chicken nuggets.

Favorite movies: “Remember the Titans” and “Facing the Giants.”

Author photo
Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.