Standout Glenwood runner Ella Johnson plans to continue on at Air Force Academy

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Glenwood Springs High School senior cross country and track runner Ella Johnson has committed to attend the Air Force Academy.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Glenwood Springs High School senior distance runner Ella Johnson is flying high at the prospect of being able to take her talents to the U.S. Air Force Academy next year.

Johnson signed her letter of intent last week to run cross country and track for the Falcons, and is now going through the process to be formally admitted to the Colorado Springs military academy.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “I always thought when I was younger that I would be a soccer player in college.”

In fact, up until her sophomore year when she became known as one of the top distance runners in the state with a fifth-place finish in the Class 4A cross country championships, soccer was her primary focus.

“Running just kind of took over after that,” said Johnson, who took fourth at the state cross country meet in both her junior and senior years.

On the track, Johnson placed fourth at state last June in the 3200 meters as a junior and was part of the Demons’ third-place 4×800-meter relay team at the state meet.

“I’m super excited and super grateful to even get this opportunity,” she said of having a chance to run at the Division I collegiate level.

First things first, though.

Acceptance to a military academy is based in part on receiving a congressional nomination. She interviews this weekend with the office of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., to obtain that important nod of approval.

She has the chops. Her grandfather was a military pilot, but not for the U.S. He flew with Great Britain’s Royal Air Force.

As for herself, Johnson is interested in studying astronautical engineering and hopes to one day work with the newly commissioned U.S. Space Force.

Johnson said she became familiar with the picturesque Air Force Academy campus playing soccer tournaments there when she was younger.

“I just always thought it was such a cool place,” she said.

When she began looking at colleges, she reached out to Air Force cross country coach Ryan Cole and things progressed from there.

“We kept talking and he asked how my season was going,” she said. “Then I had an official visit there in August, and that’s what really solidified my interest in going to the Academy.”

GSHS senior Ella Johnson, center, signs her letter of intent to run track and cross country for the Air Force Academy at a signing ceremony on Nov. 12. She was joined by her parents, Erik and Jessie Johnson and sister Aver.
Glenwood Springs High School Athletics/Courtesy photo

Longtime Glenwood Springs High School cross country and track assistant coach Kim Worline said she recognized something special about Johnson early on.

“Ella has always been a really strong athlete, and the beautiful thing about high school is you get to participate in multiple sports and see what you really like,” Worline said.

In addition to cross country, track and soccer, Johnson also plays basketball for the Demons.

“Her sophomore year, we really started to see that she is a gifted runner, and she also really loves to run and loves to compete,” Worline said. “It’s an absolute pleasure and honor to coach Ella. She’s humble, kind, has a strong work ethic and has really grown in her leadership skills.”

Johnson grew up in Glenwood Springs and is the daughter of Eric and Jessie Johnson. She has a younger sister, Aver.

Ella said she is looking forward to basketball season, and plans to again play soccer and run track in the spring.

“I’m not ready to let soccer go just yet,” she said. “Doubling up really helps me with the time management aspect.”

Johnson also points to head Demons basketball coach Rhonda Moser, a Navy veteran, as one of her inspirations.

“So, yeah, she’s been really good to talk to and learn from about her experiences,” Johnson said.

She is focused on improving her times on the track come spring, and looks to her teammates to help her along there.

Junior Sophia Connerton-Nevin has been a running buddy of hers since middle school, and with a little more natural speed than Johnson has helped her to improve her middle distance times, she said.

“There’s always room to improve, and I know I can always be faster and stronger,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her treadmill at home faces a wall with her goals written in front of her so she can focus on improving and achieving those goals.

“This sport has brought me so many opportunities, and I’ve been able to run in such cool places and meet so many new people,” she said. “I look forward to more of those opportunities.”

Academically, Johnson is currently vice president of the GSHS STEM Club, is a National Honor Society member and is in the Spanish Honor Society.