Special to the Journal
Lakeside has hired former All-American Megan “Roo” Johnson to take over its powerful softball program. She follows in the footsteps of legendary coach Gary Cooper who will step down from the position at the end of the school year.
Principal Denny Finley made the announcement Wednesday.
“Coach Cooper built our program from the ground up,” Finley said. “Now he is able to hand it off to someone who will take it to the next level.”
Johnson, who is coming to Lakeside from an assistant coaching position at Louisiana Tech, called the softball program “a well-oiled machine” and that she was excited about working with what was already in place and growing and rolling with what was to come.
“I am so honored and excited to be able to join the Warrior family,” she said. “It’s more than just softball. I can’t wait to get over there and be a part of the culture I hear so much about. Everyone I talk to says Lakeside is different. You are really a big family. And that’s one of the main reasons I want my own family to be a part of the school and community.”
Johnson and her husband, Jess, have two young sons – Joshua (who is 6) and Jeremiah (who is 4). The boys will be enrolling at Central Elementary in the fall.
“I am excited for my family,” she said.
With Cooper’s retirement on the horizon, Finley said it was imperative to find a coach who could honor the program, work well with parents and players, and build upon an already solid foundation.
“There’s not a lot of coaches out there who can do that,” he said. “But we found the best, and I am excited about the future.”
Cooper retires after 23 years as head softball coach where he led the Lady Warriors to 20 playoff appearances. He will remain Lakeside’s athletic director and math instructor.
“I’ve always said I would not leave this softball program empty handed,” the long-time coach said. “I made a promise to the parents and to myself that I would not retire until I found a qualified replacement that loved softball as much as I have. I believe we have found such a person in Roo Johnson.”
Johnson, a two-time All-American during her playing days at Otero Junior College and UT-Tyler, comes to Lakeside following more than a decade as a coach on the college, high school, and travel ball levels.
“Coach Cooper has built a program here that consistently challenges for championships,” Johnson said. “They play powerhouse 5A programs like West Monroe. I am excited to grow that legacy.”
The first order of business for Johnson will be a Friday visit to campus where she will discuss Coach Cooper’s off season and fall plans. “I don’t want to come in and change everything,” she said. “Consistency is important and what they are doing is working. I want to see what is on the schedule and communicate about that.”
While on campus she will meet with her team as well the faculty and staff. “I’m excited about working with Coach [Rendi] Dillard again,” Johnson said of Lakeside’s girls basketball coach. “We have coached together and I am looking forward to doing so once again.”
After a couple of year long stints as an assistant coach at UT-Tyler (2009-10) and Otero Junior College (2010-11), Johnson spent time at Cushing High School (2012-14), Airline High School (2014-2015), Evangel Christian Academy (2017-2018) and Glenbrook High School (2018-20). She has spent this season as an assistant coach for the Lady Techsters.
Johnson has served as the head coach and assistant coach at numerous stops along the way in softball, volleyball, track and field, swimming, and basketball. On the softball field, she has been named the district coach of the year four times and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Coach of the Year while leading Glenbrook to the 2019 MAIS state title.
She has also worked with Sneaky Cleats travel ball organization as well as serving as a softball consultant and camp counselor numerous times in her career.
Johnson – Megan Richardson during her days as a student-athlete – began her playing career at Otero Junior College where she was named the Region IX Player of the Year and an All-American in 2007 when she led the country in home runs with 24 while batting .418 with 70 RBI.
The Platteville, Colorado, native then signed with UT-Tyler where she helped lead the program to a record of 82-19 during her two seasons. She was a prolific hitter for the Patriots, still sitting in the top 10 in numerous career statistical categories, including No. 1 in slugging percentage (.735), No. 5 in on-base percentage (.499), No. 5 in walks drawn (61), No. 6 in home runs (27) and No. 10 in RBI (105).
She was an All-American (NFCA, Easton in 2009), a two-time NFCA all-West Region honoree, a two-time all-American Southwest Conference selection, and the 2009 American Southwest Conference Player of the Year. She was also named academic all-conference.
Johnson helped lead both Otero and UT-Tyler to World Series berths in 2005, 2007 and 2009 before playing for the Swiss National Team in the summer of 2010. She helped lead the team to the Swiss National Championship and a runner-up finish in the European Cup.
“She is certainly qualified and her energy and love of the game will be a great boost to our program in the future,” Cooper said. “I will still be involved as athletic director but more as an administrator as with other sports. I look forward to working with her and seeing the program continue to grow. It is an exciting time for Lakeside athletics, and I wish her all the best.”