Injury, New Mexico roots highlight Laura Johnson’s Minnesota tumbling tenure

Johnson injured her ankle before coming to Minnesota from Albuquerque.

Robert Mews

For most athletes an injury is the obstruction to success.

But for Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics senior Laura Johnson, a major ankle injury in high school propelled her to higher levels after hard work, leadership and a New Mexico connection here at Minnesota.

Johnson has, as co-coach Meg Stephenson said, raised her level of performance this season ” she has, in three meets thus far, finished no worse than second in the all-around competition. Stephenson said Johnson has become one of the best gymnasts at the University.

Yet Johnson, like many athletes, has had to fight injury to get to this level of competition. She said she blew her ankle out during her junior year while at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M.

The injury did not stop Stephenson and the rest of Minnesota’s staff from recruiting Johnson.

“There was never any doubt in our mind that she would be an incredible asset to our team,” Stephenson said.

Johnson said the injury was a setback during her first two years with the Gophers, but she was determined to remain focused on personal and team goals.

“We were really watering down most of my routines,” Johnson said, “and really working with the trainer to get myself healthy enough to start coming back.”

Stephenson added that Johnson’s character was an important factor in her recruitment and evolution.

“Everyone looked up to her and wanted to be like her, because she was that exceptional,” Stephenson said about her New Mexico past.

The Albuquerque connection at Minnesota goes further than Johnson.

Senior Kelly Stout also competed in club gymnastics at

Albuquerque, and freshman Carmelina Carabajal was a freshman when Johnson was a senior at La Cueva High School.

“I didn’t even know she was coming here until our state meet,” Johnson said.

Now they are closer.

“We’re getting really close now since we have a class together,” Carabajal said.

“Oh, it’s so great. I mean, I’ve watched her grow up,” Johnson said.

It was Johnson who helped bail out Carabajal’s fall on the balance beam and secure a big upset against Penn State this past weekend.

“She’s been able to bounce back from any kind of setback that she might have had,” Stephenson said.