WKU Track and Field coach dies at 34

Willie Johnson at at the 2017 Vanderbilt Invitational Track Meet at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Photo courtesy of WKU Athletics. 

Sam Porter

WKU Track and Field assistant coach Willie Johnson, 34, passed away in the early hours on Sunday morning. Johnson came to WKU after coaching at Marshall University from 2010-13 and has been a crucial part of WKU Track and Field’s reign atop the Conference USA.

Johnson grew up in Orlando, Florida before competing collegiately at Florida State University, where we was a two-time All-American and four-time All-ACC triple jumper from 2002-05. Johnson is survived by his wife, Lacee, and their son, Ace.

“I lost a true friend on Sunday,” head track and field coach Erik Jenkins said in a statement. “His friendship was invaluable, and I will dearly miss him. He gave so much to this program and cared deeply for his student-athletes. He was a great father, husband, friend and coach to many. We are here for Lacee and Ace as they process this very difficult time.”

Johnson, who assisted Jenkins with the Hilltopper and Lady Topper sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers, was in his fifth season on the WKU staff and coached 28 student-athletes to All-America honors and 105 to All-Conference honors. Combined, 84 of Johnson’s student-athletes set program records.

Johnson coached several notable athletes such as Chioma Agwunobi, First Team All-American Ventavius Sears and Second Team All-American Emmanuel Dasor, who represented his native country of Ghana in the 2016 Olympics.

Agwunobi won league titles and established school records in the 200-meter dash (22.68) and long jump (22’4”), and also became the first Lady Topper in program history to advance to the NCAA Championships in two sprinting events. She also ran a leg on WKU’s 4×100 relay that finished 19th at the NCAA Championships to capture three overall Honorable Mention All-America honors on the season.

“We are heartbroken as a WKU family at the loss of Coach Johnson,” WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said. “He was a valued member of our family, contributing to our student-athlete’s success both on and off the field, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Lacee, and Coach Johnson’s family during this time.”

The track and field program will host a candle light vigil in memory of Coach Johnson on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the WKU Track and Field Complex.