Track: Ford retires – Paradise girls track coach steps down

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, July 14, 2018
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Reaching the Finish Line

REACHING THE FINISH LINE – Paradise girls track coach Johna Ford (right) celebrates with assistant coach Rhea Mitschke and senior Hannah Beth Pearson at the District 8-3A meet. Mitschke took over as head coach for Ford, who retired this week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Paradise girls track coach Johna Ford is retiring after over two decades of coaching.

Ford graduated from Paradise in 1986 and returned to her alma mater to coach. She also coached at Decatur.

Under her direction, the Lady Panthers finished fourth in District 8-3A this year and second in 2016 and 2017. They won league titles in 2014 and ’15.

“The girls I have had the privilege of coaching in my career at Paradise and Decatur will always be considered ‘my kids’,” Ford said. “As a coach, I am tough. I expect a lot. They have always risen above my expectations and we have had a lot of success because of their hard work.”

Ford said she was given more responsibilities with her counseling position and did not want the two jobs to potentially conflict.

Ford’s daughter, Addyson, runs track at Decatur.

Paradise athletic director Joe Koch said when he took over for former AD Ronnie Gage in May, Ford told him she was leaning towards retirement.

“I know it was hard for her because she definitely loves track,” Koch said. “She struggled with it, but she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss out on her daughter’s high school experience.”

Rhea Mitschke, who served as Ford’s assistant and the varsity girls basketball assistant, will take over for Ford. Her daughter, Maddie, advanced to state in the 300 hurdles last year and placed eighth in 3A.

“She’s a really good coach and a perfect replacement,” Koch said. “She knows all the athletes and is completely ingrained in the Paradise community. She’s a hard worker and is very knowledgeable. She’ll do a great job.”

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