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Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson visits Ransom Everglades School

Johnson speaks to students at former school before heading back to Princeton

MIAMI – Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson received a standing ovation Thursday as she visited her former school, Ransom Everglades in Miami.

"When you get to introduce to the whole school a former student who's done what she's done, and who actually embodies all the good that we hope for in our students, you get emotional," head of school Penny Townsend said.

Johnson spoke to students for a half-hour. The 21-year-old year water polo player is entering her senior year at Princeton University, but just four years ago she was sitting in a seat at Ransom Everglades School.

"You guys should just aim to have balance in your life, pursue what you love (and) love what you do," Johnson said.

Johnson is the first and only African-American athlete and non-Californian on the U.S. water polo team.

"It was really intense because I never played in front of a crowd that big or that loud. It was like playing in a soccer game in Brazil. It was so cool, because the crowd kind of dictated the momentum of the game," Johnson said.

Johnson, who grew up in the Redlands, won four state titles while she was a student at the South Florida school.

"(The) main thing is just that anybody can do it, like seeing her come from our school, it's kind of like that any one of our friends can do it, like coming from this community that anybody can grow up and become a professional water polo player in the Olympics," student athlete Gilles Gouraige said. "(It's) truly inspirational."

"Our mission is about giving more to the world than you take from it, and I think she's done exactly that," Townsend said.  

Johnson is heading back to Princeton soon to complete her psychology degree. Before she goes, she'll throw out the first pitch next week at the Marlins game against the Phillies.