Monday, May 23, 2022

Pearson, Johnson bring individual Meet of Champions titles back to Timber Creek

Senior jumpers become first two MOC winners in track-and-field program history

Special to South Jersey Sports Weekly
Timber Creek entered the 2021-’22 indoor track season without ever having a boys Meet of Champions title. Thanks to seniors Jaden Johnson II (left) and Chace Pearson (right), the school now has two.

It was sometime during the middle of last season that Timber Creek track and field jumps coach Shawn McHugh went over video with then-junior Chace Pearson before heading outside for the day. That’s when McHugh had an inkling of what was to come.

In reviewing Pearson’s approach to the long jump pit and his takeoff, McHugh brought up video of then-Sterling junior Jaden Johnson II from that season to showcase what the Group 2 jumper was doing right. The coach hoped Pearson would use the footage to perfect the second phase of his own jump. 

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Just a few short months later, the Timber Creek coaching staff received word that Johnson was transferring there from Sterling for his senior year, thus setting up the opportunity for two senior jumpers to work together during their final year in the sandpit. 

“It was the best possible scenario to have for your senior year,” McHugh said. “All of a sudden they both have another guy next to them that can push each other in practice. I still get chills thinking about it … They got the chance to become so close and push each other day in and day out and develop that friendship.”

Flash forward to the end of their indoor season and the two seniors wrapped up first place finishes in their respective events at the Meet of Champions. Johnson won the triple jump with a meet record 46-foot-9 jump, while Pearson reached a personal best of 23-foot-2 to take the long jump. 

The Chargers entered the season without having had a Meet of Champions winner. During his first and only year with Timber Creek, Johnson became the first in program history to win an event in the 53 years of the meet, just a few hours before Pearson joined him in the record books to make a clean sweep of the horizontal jumps.

Before the start of the season, the two weren’t very familiar with each other, outside of seeing their marks among some of the best jumpers in the state. But much like their coach said after he learned Johnson would come to Timber Creek, the athletes were both excited to work together during senior year.

“I never got that chance to jump against [Pearson] since I was Group 2 while at Sterling, and Timber Creek is Group 3 … ‘’ Johnson said, “but coming in I was excited to have a partner of his ability to practice with and try to help me get to the next level.” 

“It made it way more interesting and way more fun,” Pearson said of the pairing. ”Before that, I was kind of jumping solo for a while, so it was me by myself before he came [to Timber Creek]. So I got the chance to share the experience with someone and really help each other with our jumps in practice and during meets.” 

Looking back, McHugh said both the athletic ability and work ethic the two seniors displayed  contributed to the most successful indoor season of jumps in Timber Creek’s history, a feat that will be more impressive years from now.

“I told them on the bus ride home after they both won their events (that) it’s difficult to fathom that they were able to do what they did at Meet of Champions,” McHugh said. “You have to have the jump. God’s with you sometimes, and that night they were with us, but their performances were something special. 

“As time goes (on) … ’’ he added, “what they were able to accomplish is only going to feel more and more special.” 

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