Hutch athlete will represent Minnesota
Hutchinson athlete Devin Johnson is known for his dedication, his support of his team, and his willingness to take advice and improve.
“For the two years I was with him, there wasn’t really a time he didn’t come in and put in work,” said personal trainer Joe Meier.
So it wasn’t too surprising to hear Johnson was selected as Minnesota’s SpartanNash 2017 Health Athlete. The honor makes Johnson, 22, an exemplification of the Special Olympics Program, which he will now help promote, in part because his likeness will appear on packages of bottled water. He’ll also be honored at a local store where SpartanNash, a Midwest wholesale grocery distributor, stocks products.
“SpartanNash has been a longtime sponsor of Special Olympics Minnesota, helping further the mission and programs,” said Mona Hjerpe, Hutchinson Special Olympics head coach. “This annual award recognizes a (Special Olympics of Minnesota) athlete who exemplifies a healthy lifestyle and the Special Olympics Athlete Oath: ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’”
Johnson has been an athlete in a variety of sports for nearly his entire life. He said Wednesday evening his favorite Special Olympics sport is basketball, but he’s shown a special passion for weightlifting as well.
Meier worked with Johnson while he was at America’s Fitness Center.
“Before I left, he had this one goal,” Meier said. “There is a chest press machine in the gym, and he had the goal of pressing the entire stack, which is over 200 pounds. He did it, at least four times, and it’s just an example of the kind of person he is.”
“I was working hard,” Johnson said.
To his parents, Trina and Eric Johnson, seeing Devin dig in or get involved is nothing new. They recall that after more than two years as a wrestling manager, he gained a love for that sport as well.
“He loved it and wanted to get out on the mat,” Trina Johnson said.
“He wanted to be part of a team,” Eric Johnson said.
Devin Johnson’s interest in sports started when he was age 6 or 7, when his dad coached T-ball. He went on to join Special Olympics and bowl, and play basketball and other sports with the Hutch Storm, as well as its unified program that joins Special Olympics athletes with others. In his sophomore year of high school, he joined the Hutch Tigers Special Olympics Team, and kept it up until this year when he finished the district’s transition assistance program.
“All the Special Olympics athletes, they like to be thought of as they are their own team, they like to be on the court just like the high school teams,” Eric Johnson said. “They think it’s pretty special to be in front of others and performing. They might think it’s a bigger stage than it is, but to them, it’s pretty special.”
The ranking of medals and ribbons is less important than taking part and receiving one, he said. Even a blue 12th-place ribbon is great. Both Mom and Devin Johnson’s two sisters — before they left for college — have been involved in the school’s unified program. Dad said he is a cheerleader.
Even though he is no longer in the high school Special Olympics team, Devin Johnson continues to train and play on his own while he looks out for new opportunities and challenges. He can be spotted riding bike around Hutchinson with his family, and loves to wear his “Hutch Tigers Special Olympics” gear.
“Devin is a super-gifted and dedicated athlete,” Meier said. “He is, for sure, very self-driven and motivated, and he likes to see improvements.”
“Devin is one of those quiet competitors that always brings his best to practice and competitions,” Hjerpe said, “and exemplifies the healthy lifestyle we all strive to have. He is very steady and positive. It is truly a pleasure to coach him.”