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Johnson proficient at pulling double-duty for Redhawks

Estelline/Hendricks’ Sadie Johnson, right, performs her floor exercise routine during the Class A team competition portion of the South Dakota State Gymnastics Meet Friday at the Golden Eagles Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 2/10/2023

In small towns all across the Midwest – or at least in South Dakota – athletes routinely double up on their sports. It’s not uncommon to see a handful of cross country runners also playing volleyball, for instance. Or track athletes also playing golf.

But winter sports don’t always lend themselves to dual-sport participation. Not, that is, unless your name is Sadie Johnson of Estelline/Hendricks, who happens to be proficient at just about everything she does, including gymnastics and basketball.

Johnson, a junior, has been a top-10 All-Around competitor in gymnastics since her seventh-grade season and has multiple top-5 finishes throughout her career, including a Class A state title in floor exercise last season. 

She’s also one of the Redhawks’ top players on the basketball court.

“I’ve been involved with gymnastics since I was 3 years old,” Johnson said. “It’s been a love of mine ever since then. But Hendricks, we’re a small town. We’re involved in everything, and basketball became a love of mine, as well.”

And so the long juggling act began. And continues.

Johnson is in Aberdeen this weekend for the state gymnastics meet. She competed Friday in the team competition and helped lead the team to its first state championship. She takes part in the individual competition today. In addition to her individual state title, Johnson was also the runner-up in the all-around last season.

But it doesn’t come without a cost.

“It is so physically demanding going from basketball to gymnastics,” Johnson acknowledged. “We’ve had a busy past couple weeks with five events in a week.”

Still, Johnson said, being able to represent her school and her community on two different platforms is a privilege. 

“I don’t think I could leave either one of them,” she said. “My sisters did the same thing, played dual sports. I just enjoy it. It can be demanding on my body and mind, but it’s just so much fun.”

Redhawks basketball coach Eric Bass said Johnson’s tenacity is a valuable asset to both programs.

“The mentality is what constantly amazes me,” Bass said. “We ask her all the time to go guard the other team’s best player. It doesn’t matter who it is; could be an inch or two or three taller than her. She goes out there and fights. And that’s all game long. She very rarely comes off the floor. If she needs a break, a lot of times we’ll call timeout just to keep her on the floor. She never complains. She just keeps going.”

Sadie Johnson of Estelline/Hendricks gets in a defensive stance during a basketball game earlier this season. Photo by Kristy McAninch

Not to mention there’s school and homework and a home life to attend to. Johnson said she has matured greatly in her ability to manage a hectic lifestyle. Budgeting her time wisely has been the biggest thing, she said.

“There’s definitely some late nights,” she said.” But as I’ve gotten older and aged from seventh to now eleventh grade, it’s gotten easier.”

“She’s an excellent student,” Bass said. “You shake your head sometimes that someone that young understands that. This is what needs to be done and she just goes and does it.”

She’s had some pretty good role models to guide her on the way. Both of Johnson’s older sisters also pulled double-duty, and still continue to mentor her despite being off at college.

“My sisters have been the biggest role models to me throughout my career and childhood,” Johnson said. “They set the bar, and they pushed me to be better than they were, not just for myself, but for my parents, the school and the community.”

As for what’s next, Johnson doesn’t know. But she has some time to figure it out. First, however, there’s a state meet to focus on, and after that, a track season that presents its own opportunity for success. Johnson, after all, is a state champion pole vaulter.

“She loves to compete,” Bass said. “It really is amazing.”

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