PANORA — The University of Northern Iowa women’s track team received a big lift Tuesday when Panorama senior Morgan Johnk, one of the best high jumpers and hurdlers in the state, signed a Letter of Intent to change her Panther mascot from blue to purple.
“She could have chosen volleyball, basketball or track as her sport in college,” Panorama track head coach Greg Thompson said. “Morgans is a very talented but humble athlete. She wants to succeed individually, but more important to her is the team and the achievements of the team.”
Johnk drew interest from Drake, Central College and Central Missouri State but wanted to stay closer to home. UNI had not initially recruited her, so she took the initiative, and once the Panther coaches did a little research they were sold. Johnk was as well.
“I like that it isn’t such a big school,” she said. “When I took my visit there it really felt more like a community to me and that was very important. I really like the coaches and the family-like approach I found there, so the choice was an easy one.”
“NCAA Division I athletes don’t come along often in a school our size,” Thompson said. “We are blessed to have had Morgan as a student and as an athlete at Panorama.”
Johnk admitted having the decision made and out of the way was important to her, as it will allow her to focus on the ongoing basketball and upcoming track seasons.
Her track resume is studded with success. A five-time Drake Relays qualifier, she ran on the shuttle hurdle relay as a freshman, was 12th in the high jump (her specialty) as a sophomore and last year was fourth in the high jump, 14th in the 100 hurdles and ran on the 4×100 team.
Johnk was second in the 100 hurdles and anchored the runner-up shuttle hurdle team at the state meet last spring. Along with fourth place in the high jump and as a member of the 15th place 4×100 she earned IATC All-State recognition as the Panthers finished third.
She is a 12-time state meet qualifier and as an individual or relay member has been a part of eight WCAC event championships while helping the Panthers will league titles each season.
She capped last season as the IATC all-class Pentathlon champion. Featuring the high jump, long jump, shot put, 100 hurdles and 800, the event is one which Johnk hopes she might have a chance to compete at in college.
“The coaches talked to me a bit about doing multiple events, maybe a pentathlon or heptathlon and I like that idea,” Johnk said. “The high jump is probably my favorite event, but I like doing the others as well.”
Considering her prowess, the Panthers in Cedar Falls have to be pleased with the word of Johnk’s impending enrollment.
“I can only hope that my own daughter grows into a young woman like Morgan, with outstanding moral character, good work ethic, and a team-first mentality,” Thompson concluded. “I have received many compliments from other athletes and coaches that compete against Morgan, but I am quick to give the credit to Morgan and her parents, Mitch and Kim Johnk.”