She never planned on being a movie star. She really wanted to win a national championship. Either way, All-American Carol Johnston etched her name into Cal State Fullerton athletic lore as a member of one of the most dominant collegiate women’s gymnastics teams of her time.
As a sophomore in 1978, Johnston, who was also the WCAA champion on beam as a freshman, was named an AIAW All-American on both the balance beam and floor exercise, finishing as the national runner-up in both disciplines at the national meet that season. With her sights set firmly on winning a national title the following year, the dream came crashing down when she fell from the uneven bars during warm-ups prior to a meet, tearing ligaments in her knee and putting her in a cast for eight weeks, sidelining her for the season.
“My goal was to win the 1979 national championship in the floor exercise,” Johnston told the Daily Titan in a feature story written on Sept. 16, 1980. “I had a new routine worked out that I knew would win, and I was excited for the new season.”
She underwent surgery on her knee two days following the injury and had to watch that season while her teammates went on to win the AIAW National Championship.
However, just as quickly, a star was born. A 20-minute educational film about Johnston and her life was seen by an executive at Disney and it quickly turned into the feature film “Lefty,” premiering across the nation on “Disney’s Wonderful World” on Sept. 21, 1980. She was followed by a film crew, chronicling her daily routine, including everything from brushing her teeth in the morning to going out on dates.
That didn’t stop her from her goal of returning in time for the 1980 season, however, but another injury to the same knee did. Johnston underwent a major knee reconstruction and was out for another 12 weeks, essentially ending her competitive career.
In her three seasons with the Titans, Cal State Fullerton compiled a record of 45-0 in meets, part of a larger run that grew to 71-0 when you include the year before Johnston’s arrival in 1976 and the first three meets of 1980 before the Titans lost for the first time at Penn State -- the site of their national championship a year earlier and against the team they had edged for the school’s first Division I national title.
Johnston, along with men’s soccer standout Mike Fox, men’s basketball head coach Bobby Dye, and the 1995 NCAA National Champion baseball team, will be inducted into the hall's fifth biennial class on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Fullerton Marriott near the Cal State Fullerton campus.
Individual tickets for the 2013 Cal State Fullerton Athletics Hall of Fame are now available for $95 with tables of 10 available for $800. Those who wish to attend the event can register online by clicking here.
For more information on the event, please contact Greg Paules, Director of Development for Athletics, at (657) 278-4516 or via email at email@example.com.