Upper Arlington News

Olympic medalist will be parade grand marshal


After missing the last several July Fourth celebrations in Upper Arlington to pursue her Olympic dreams, Abby Johnston will preside over the pomp, pageantry and parties of one of her hometown’s signature events.

In April, the Upper Arlington Civic Association announced this year’s Fourth of July celebration theme would be “Boulevard of Stars.”

Event organizers said the theme was appropriate not only to honor the UACA’s tradition of painting stars on Northwest Boulevard for the parade, but also because Johnston, one of the community’s heroes, has been selected to serve as parade grand marshal.

Johnston is an Upper Arlington native who last year won a silver medal for the U.S. Olympic diving team. She began diving in 2002.

“We selected (Johnston) because of her deep roots in Upper Arlington and her outstanding accomplishment as a silver medalist in the past summer Olympics,” said Mark Berens, UACA July Fourth co-chairman.

Berens said choosing Johnston was one of the easiest decisions the UACA would make all year, and the organization hoped the parade would serve as an opportunity to honor her for her achievements.

According to Johnston, the significance of the distinction is not lost on her.

“It’s such a huge honor,” she said last week. “I’ve always loved the Fourth of July and the tradition Upper Arlington has.”

The daughter of David and Elaine Johnston, Abby has two sisters, Adrienne and Leah.

After graduating this past spring from Duke University, Johnston, 23, is back home in Upper Arlington, serving as assistant diving instructor for youths at the Scioto Country Club.

She’s taking some time off from diving as she recovers from a shoulder injury that plagued her during last summer’s Olympics and which required surgery.

She’s also taking a break from studies, but plans to enroll in medical school in fall 2014.

“I’m just excited to be home and in Upper Arlington,” she said. “It’s just fun being back in the pool because I haven’t been in the pool since my shoulder surgery.

“This summer, I’m coaching and I’m just going to lay low. It’s the first time I’ve had time to hang out for about six or seven years.”

Her dogged pursuit of academic and athletic excellence at Duke – and her dream of competing in the Olympics – kept Johnston from relaxing and catching up with friends the past several summers, so she said she’s thrilled to be participating in this year’s Fourth of July ceremonies.

In addition to being grand marshal, the Upper Arlington High School graduate is looking forward to her five-year reunion, which, like all UAHS reunions, will take place July 4. 

“I’ve been out of the country the past four Fourth of Julys,” she said. “Every year, I make my friends send me pictures.

“I’m just excited to get to be with my friends and family. There’s going to be a lot of celebrations.”