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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER

Johnen Growing Up Fast Outside Rio Mesa's Goal

February 21, 2001|CHRIS SHAFFER

Jonathon Johnen has no one to tell him to do his homework, no parent to bring him medicine when he gets sick.

He works at the factory outlets in Camarillo to help support himself. He handles his finances, which include buying food and making payments on a new truck. His parents pay for his gas and shelter.

The Rio Mesa High goalkeeper has been living like a college student since he was a freshman.

The lifestyle may sound glamorous, but Johnen knows better. Being independent and having responsibilities have taken away from the fun of being young and enjoying high school.

Johnen has lived with his brother Matt, 22, for three years in the family's longtime home in Camarillo. Johnen's father is a vice president for Seagate Technologies in Singapore.

Johnen's parents moved from Camarillo to San Jose for business in the summer of 1998. The distance between Johnen and his parents widened last year when they moved to Singapore. Johnen chose to stay behind in order to finish school at Rio Mesa.

With his brother as legal guardian, Johnen has practically raised himself through high school.

"It's a lot of responsibility," Johnen said. "I can't mess around. I have to take everything seriously. I have to save money and use it wisely. There is no one here to pick up the slack if I forget to do something."

Johnen usually sees his parents once a year, at Christmas. Otherwise, he relies on e-mail to communicate with them. Because of the time difference, it's difficult to talk on the telephone.

Despite a lack of parental supervision, Johnen has kept things in perspective. He's an honor-roll student and says his education comes first.

"I admire him," Matt said of his brother. "He knows I'm there for him, but he pretty much takes care of himself.

"He keeps his life in balance. He doesn't pay attention to just girls. He realizes school is more important than getting a date. A lot of kids at this age couldn't do that."

One of the few things he's yet to learn is nutrition. Although frugal, the senior eats dinner at a fast-food restaurant six days a week.

"[That's] what I live off of," Johnen said. "They have a special every day of the week, except Saturday. Saturday is the only day I'm [out of luck]. I'm forced to make macaroni and cheese."

Johnen's success extends beyond the classroom. This season he's been the key to success for Rio Mesa's soccer team. He was a second-team All-Pacific View League selection last season as a midfielder.

This season he switched to goalkeeper, a position he played only once before, when his team's goalkeeper failed to show for a game.

"I'd do anything for this kid and just about anybody that knows him would too," said Rio Mesa Coach Ross Greaney. "He might be more mature than I am. I can see him 10 years from now owning and running a huge corporation and telling people what to do like he does on the field."

Johnen's lack of experience at goalkeeper doesn't show. He has been exceptional in front of the net, leading Rio Mesa to a 14-8-2 record and earning all-league honors. The Spartans host Quartz Hill today in a Southern Section Division II second-round playoff game.

"Whether he realizes it or not, he's been miraculous for us in goal," Greaney said. "His hand-to-eye coordination and his raw bravery make him a great goalkeeper."

Northwestern has shown interest in Johnen's soccer skills, although he has yet to decide if he wants to play soccer or golf.

Johnen's parents are flying home to visit March 3, the same day the section finals are scheduled. Rio Mesa needs three more victories for Johnen's parents to be able to see him play for the first time since he was a sophomore.

"It would be nice for my parents to see me play," he said. "They haven't really seen me grow into a senior."

*

The field conditions were horrendous at Ventura High last Wednesday for the Simi Valley-Ventura wild-card boys' game. The field was all dirt except for clumps of grass near the sideline.

Looking for a better field, Ventura Coach Todd Tackett called Buena and asked to use its field. Buena refused.

"[Ventura forward] Mike Enfield told me he's only seen worse soccer fields than this when he was with the national team in Chile," Tackett said. "It's a shame [Buena wouldn't let us use their field]. They use our field during football."

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