Being the second youngest of six children with three older brothers, BYU high jumper Andrea Stapleton-Johnson had to learn to compete early on.
“Coming after three brothers is the reason why I became a collegiate athlete,” Stapleton-Johnson said. “It toughened me up and made me super competitive.”
The entire Stapleton family shares in Andrea’s love for competition. Her dad, Dave Stapleton, is a former BYU track and field athlete and holds the school’s outdoor high jump record of 7’5.50”. Allison, the youngest sibling, found her talent for volleyball, which led her to join the Cougars last year.
Growing up in Kennewick, Washington, with an acre of land, the family knew how to have a good time. Whether it was playing baseball, kickball, volleyball or the family’s favorite, Kick the Can, the Stapletons were up for some family-friendly competition.
“My parents always did things to get us together,” Stapleton-Johnson said. “We were always cooped up and it kind of forced us to like each other. Family was always a big deal and still is.”
Stapleton-Johnson also cherishes her down time. In third grade, Stapleton-Johnson’s mom, Barb, asked her daughter if she wanted to be signed up for a sport. Stapleton-Johnson said no, she wanted her free time to be creative, draw and read knowing sports would come later.
Dave shared an experience when he and his wife would watch Stapleton-Johnson draw pictures in church as a little girl and would be left in shock. He says it’s one example of how everything she touches “turns to gold.”
When explaining her talent, Stapleton-Johnson said, “It is something inside of me that I can’t put into words. It is something out of my control.”
But once middle school came around, it didn’t take long for Stapleton-Johnson’s high jump career to take off.
“My vertical was good right away and I knew jumping is where I would be,” Stapleton-Johnson reflected.
With Stapleton-Johnson’s dad claiming high jump as his “second religion,” it was already on the radar for the young athlete. However, she makes it clear that her parents never pressured her. The praise was enough to spark her interest and journey in the sport.
One of her father’s favorite memories of his daughter was at one of her eighth grade meets. “Barb and I were walking and heard two boys talking that had competed,” Dave said. “We heard one say to the other, ‘Crud, I got beat by a girl.’ It was so funny. We knew they were talking about our daughter.”
In high school she was all-conference all four years. As a junior, Stapleton-Johnson placed second in the triple jump and won the high jump at state. She also took third in the triple jump at state her senior year. In all, she set the record for most points at the Washington State Meet in 2013 and again in 2014, helping her team win the state championship all four years.
As college crept up, Stapleton-Johnson was enjoying both volleyball and track and had a love for both. When the time came for her to decide which sport to focus on, it was an easy choice.
“It wasn’t as big of a decision as it probably could have been,” Stapleton-Johnson shared. “Volleyball was always just fun for me and so was track, but I took track more seriously. I absolutely love the decision I made.”
Joining the BYU track and field program meant more to Stapleton-Johnson than most may think – but not just because of athletics.
“I’ve always wanted to go to BYU,” Stapleton-Johnson said. “I love the atmosphere and values of the school. I’ll be honest, I love it all. This is my place and it’s always kind of been my place.”
Arriving at the Clarence F. Robison Track was something special for Stapleton-Johnson. Not only did her dad compete at the same facility but her current coach, Mark Robison, competed alongside him in 1982 under the track’s namesake, Clarence Robison. Stapleton-Johnson has never been short of high jump role models with these two experienced mentors in her life.
“She has a great understanding of sport in general and her level of motivation to be successful is extremely high,” Robison said. “She’s like having another coach on the field. She will give the other girls feedback and is so kind. Andrea is outgoing and genuine. I wish I had a whole lot of Andreas.”
The young athlete’s career hasn’t come without injury, although Stapleton-Johnson describes them as “all really stupid.”
After a block gone wrong in a volleyball match in high school, Stapleton-Johnson rolled her left ankle and was left to wonder if she would ever be able to exercise again. Thankfully, a full recovery granted her the ability to continue jumping, resulting in a competitive clearance her freshman year at BYU. However, due to Stapleton-Johnson’s venturous nature, she decided to clear a flight of stairs on a scooter two weeks before regionals that same year, resulting in another rolled left ankle. By faithfully keeping to her physical therapy, she recovered again. Fast forward a year and Stapleton-Johnson signed up for a volleyball class and once again, went in for a block and was left with another rolled ankle – this time her right. With some hardcore rehab and a little bit of a miracle, Stapleton-Johnson was not only able to make a full recovery but tie for 13th at nationals.
During her time at BYU, Stapleton-Johnson has received several national recognitions. In 2018 she earned first-team honors after taking eighth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. And placed 15th at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships to qualify her as a second-team All-American. She also took 13th at the NCAA Indoor Championships and 16th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2017. All together these recognitions have led to her being named a four-time All-American.
While continuing to excel athletically, Stapleton-Johnson also excels academically. She is still an avid artist and is currently in BYU’s illustration program with a goal to illustrate for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or children’s books.
With all the success at her dream school, Stapleton-Johnson still stays close to her family, including Allison. The Stapleton sisters are able to offer encouragement and support to one another, while continuing to push each other.
“Andrea’s work ethic inspired me and made me want to do the same,” Allison said. “Being here together is great because we get to see each other in the locker room or weight room almost every day. It’s the best surprise and helps us stay close.”
Sports have become more important to the high jumper during college, but they were never her No. 1 focus. Her main priorities were to attend a good school, get a good education and marry a good person, all of which she has achieved. In August 2017, Stapleton-Johnson married Brett Johnson who, she says, “balances her out.” Now, as Andrea Stapleton-Johnson, her life is “pretty stellar.”
Stapleton-Johnson credits her success in every part of her life to two things: hard work and her Heavenly Father. Before every jump, you’ll notice her relaxing, going over her action cues and saying a prayer. Through the busyness of her college-athlete schedule she never loses sight of what is most important to her.
She advises young people to make everything a learning experience and to “choose to smile when life is at its hardest, because life is generally pretty awesome.”