By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Karsyn Johnson accepts that her role as a three-sport athlete at Eastern Alamance has a different twist.
“I do feel I persevere because it is different to be a female on the football team,” Johnson said.
As a senior, that part of her high school experience recently came to an end, but it has been accompanied by various opportunities and recognitions.
Johnson was selected as Eastern’s winner in the Heisman Trophy Trust Foundation’s Heisman High School Scholarship process this fall.
Then last month, she became part of an Under Armour program that brought 10 high school athletes from around the country convening for a day-long experience at the company’s headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. Johnson was the only participant from North Carolina.
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Under Armour welcomed winners from different sports. It was part of the UA Athlete “No One Saw Coming Grant” campaign, which was created to provide athletes between the ages of 14 and 17 with resources to improve performances on their individual journeys to compete. The prize included a $5,000 grant and UA gear for a year along with the visit to Baltimore.
A panel discussion involved a session with track and field professionals.
The high schoolers visited the UA Performance Center. In the same space where some of Under Armour’s top athletes train, the high school athletes underwent an athletic assessment. Based on information from Under Armour, this customized experience was created to provide the athletes with a personalized athletic assessment, a boot-camp style workout and recovery session that mimics what many of the athletes who train with UA also receive in order to give them a leg up on their competition back home.
For Johnson, her unique spot on the football team came with challenges and rewards.
“No matter what people say or do, you have to keep working,” she said. “I know I’m a football player. I’m actually a good kicker.”
Johnson also plays basketball as a forward and soccer as a goalkeeper. She said soccer is her favorite sport.
“We’re a very strong soccer family,” she said.
Eastern football coach John Kirby said Johnson’s ability to juggle so many activities – including a part-time job – and remain strong academically is a credit to her ability to budget time.
Johnson said there isn’t an automatic connection between playing soccer and kicking a football.
“The technique to kick in football is a completely different technique,” she said.
On the football field this year, Johnson was good on 51 of 56 extra points and 1-for-1 on field goals, with the lone attempt in the third round of the Class 3-A state playoffs.
Johnson began her football career in the seventh grade as a defensive back. She said that didn’t work well, but she found a niche as a kicker.
“When you’re a girl on the [football] team, you have to work that much harder. As the years progressed, it started getting better.”
– Eastern alamance kicker karsyn johnson
In some ways, she followed a path of former Eastern kickers Eliza Krans and Emilyn Krans, who graduated in 2017 and 2021, respectively.
“When you’re a girl on the team, you have to work that much harder,” Johnson said. “As the years progressed, it started getting better.”
Kirby said Johnson’s self-motivation is something that stands out.
“She’s very determined and probably her biggest critic,” he said.
Johnson said she missed out on some team bonding because she wasn’t in the main locker room. Otherwise, she said the boys on the team felt more comfortable with having her around.
“At practices and stuff, we talk normally,” she said. “Now the boys just talk normally around me.”
Two junior varsity seasons were followed by two seasons as the varsity starting kicker.
She has been an Eagle in that program all along.
“I really thought that she fit in good,” Kirby said. “She started at the middle school on the team so she was around those kids. They were glad when she did well.”
She provided the conference champion Eagles with 54 points this season. She said she would have liked more chances for field goals.
“We had really good running backs,” she said. “They wanted to get seven (points) instead of three.”
Johnson, who turned 17 in August, said she would like to attend UNC Chapel Hill. She says she’d be interested in participating in club soccer or club rugby.