- Nine-Time Regional Assistant Coach of the Year
- Four Olympians (including an Olympic gold medalist)
Chris Johnson is entering his fifth season as the associate head coach of the University of Arkansas women’s track and field team, having returned to Fayetteville prior to the 2012-13 campaign. Among his coaching duties, he oversees the Razorbacks’ sprinters/hurdles and assists with the multi events.
The sprint and hurdle coach for the Razorbacks began his Arkansas career by coaching his student-athletes to four All-America honors, a national championship in the 4×400-meter relay outdoors and a pair of top 10 team finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Johnson received his eighth USTFCCCA Regional Assistant Coach of the Year honor for his development of Regina George during his first year back at Arkansas. Former Razorback and Nigerian Olympian, George won an NCAA title in 2013 by anchoring the Razorbacks’ outdoor 4×400-meter relay to a national championship.
He added to his collection of awards in 2016, claiming his ninth USTFCCCA Regional Coaching honor, following the development of one of the most pronounced sprints and multis contingents in the country which boasted another 400 specialist in Philadelphia native Taylor Ellis-Watson as well as nationally-dominant heptathlon trio Taliyah Brooks, Alex Gochenour and Payton Stumbaugh.
Johnson’s first year in the Ozarks was not unfamiliar to him as he spent two years as a graduate assistant with the Razorbacks in 2003 and 2004. During that time Arkansas won two Southeastern Conference titles and was a mainstay at the top of the leaderboard at both the SEC and NCAA Championships.
Johnson had a hand in the development of multi-time Olympic gold medalist Veronica Brown-Campbell and NCAA Outdoor Champion and future U.S. Olympic Relay consideration LaShaunte’a Moore.
In between Johnson’s two stops in Fayetteville, he spent eight years at Penn State University, as an assistant and associate head coach. He was named the United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association’s (USTFCCCA) Mid-Atlantic Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year seven times during his tenure in State College.
Johnson’s time at Penn State included two NCAA Championships by his student-athletes, 36 Big Ten titles and more than 50 All-America honors. Johnson also guided the Nittany Lions to their first Big Ten 4×400-meter relay championship in program history. While in State College, Pa., Johnson’s student-athletes played a pivotal role in Penn State women’s fourth-place team finish at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
During the 2015 season, Johnson’s student-athletes produced top performances at both the indoor and outdoor SEC Championships assisting Arkansas’ efforts to secure their third triple crown.
2015 saw Johnson transition senior Chrishuna Williams from a sprinter to one of the best 800-meter runners in the country. In her first year competing in the event, Williams won a conference championship, broke the school record with 2:01.61 (Payton Jordan Invitational) and posted two top-five performances at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships.
Over the year, Johnson produced seven All-Americans, four SEC champions (400m, 800m, 4x400m), and two NCAA runner-up performances. The two silver medals from Ellis-Watson (400m) and the 4×400-meter relay team and a top-five finish from Williams (800m) aided in the Razorbacks winning the program’s first national title at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Carrying the momentum into the next year, Johnson’s group became even more formidable, leading Arkansas to two more conference titles, a fourth program triple crown and its first outdoor national title. Along the way to collecting multiple program accolades Johnson was instrumental in guiding Ellis-Watson to two more SEC gold medals and four additional NCAA silvers. At the NCAA indoor meet his pentathlete trio became the first in the history of the NCAA to all medal in the same championship meet, scoring points which led to a national runner-up team finish.
One of the major highlights from the 2016 season came at the NCAA West Preliminary round during which Johnson coached his 4-x-400 relay squad, anchored by Ellis-Watson to a world-leading performance and meet, facility and program record of 3:25.48. In addition to the relay record, Johnson’s athletes set four more program all-time bests over the course of the year including the 400 (outdoor), long jump (outdoor), 60 hurdles and 100 hurdles.
Fresh off the NCAA outdoor championship meet Johnson coached several Razorbacks to Olympic Trial bids with Ellis-Watson and Williams earning spots on the U.S. national team in the 4-x-400 and 800, respectively. Following through with their development Johnson journeyed to Rio with the pair, training the duo right up until their respective races — Ellis-Watson collecting an Olympic gold for her efforts.
Johnson graduated from Lamar University in 1999, earning a degree in kinesiology. An outstanding athlete in his own right, he was a Sun Belt Conference champion at 400 meters.
He is married to the former Gi-Gi Miller, a 2001 NCAA triple jump champion and four-time All-American during her collegiate career at Arkansas. With Johnson as her coach, Miller competed at the 2005 and 2007 IAAF World Championships and was the 2006 U.S. champion in the heptathlon. The couple was married in October 2005.