By Rich Place
It may be entirely different than running up and down a basketball court or running around a track, but the job that Ann McMahon Johnston has found success in today has roots in her athletic career at Springville-Griffith Institute.
McMahon Johnston, one of the three inductees into this year’s Pop Warner Hall of Fame class, is a 1982 SGI graduate and currently works as a category merchant at Wegmans corporate office in Rochester.
“How do you learn to make this group all perform together to the best of their abilities,” asked McMahon Johnston during a recent telephone interview, referencing her responsibilities as captain of the basketball team in high school. “It’s those things I learned, quite frankly, that in my job and in my life work here at Wegmans I’ve used every single day.”
McMahon Johnston is one of nine children in the well known McMahon family and was a successful three-sport athlete in tennis, basketball and track from 1979 to 1982. Among her accolades include S-GI Female Athlete of the Year in 1982 and Most Valuable Player in tennis and track that year as well.
The Female Athlete of the Year Award came following her decision to run track in the spring of her senior year, something she admits now she was reluctant to do. However, it provided a valuable life lesson, she said.
“(I was told) if you don’t run track this year, you won’t get it,” McMahon Johnston said about the award. “You’ve got to put yourself in the position to be successful. It’s a life lesson: there’s a lot of things you don’t want to do in life right at his minute, but they make your life down the road better.”
The decision to participate in sports was an easy one for McMahon Johnston growing up, one of nine children and sandwiched between a handful of brothers when it comes to ages. And as the daughter of the sports teams’ physician, participation in sports almost came natural.
“Everybody knew ‘Doc McMahon’ so it was kind of expected that we would play sports and I’m in the middle of my five brothers,” she said. “Of course, sports was our world from the time I grew up because I grew up with my brothers.
“It was just the most fun thing to do, that’s what I loved to do, it’s what all my friends did,” she continued. “It was just such a close knit group of like-minded, strong-willed women … it was a great learning experience for me as to how to work with all different personalities.”
McMahon Johnston participated in various sports growing up — including being the only girl on a little league boys basketball team — and was a member of various sports teams at St. Al’s, where she attended through eighth grade.
After graduation from SGI, she played tennis all four years at St. Bonaventure and was a manager for the women’s basketball team. Now, she serves as a category merchant at Wegmans, being responsible for specific categories within the store. She’s responsible for special diet sections within the nature’s marketplace.
It’s a job that often harkens back to the skills she learned as an athlete at Springville, she said.
“I wasn’t the best player but I was captain of the basketball team because I could make everyone on the team work together so we were all better,” she said. “I wasn’t the best one, but I was able to wrangle the girls so that we were the best team we could be. I do it now, I do it every day.”
And she now lives in the Rochester area but continues to have fond memories of growing up in Springville.
“As we were looking for places (to live), we chose a (school) district that was very much like Springville because the opportunities there were perfect,” she said. “It was big enough that everybody didn’t know who you were … but you have the opportunity if you worked hard that you could try and be in almost anything you wanted to be.”