Did you know we have a Junior Olympics Gold Medal winner on the Old Mission Peninsula? East Middle School student Julia Flynn recently won the gold for the 1500 meter race at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior Olympic Games National Championship in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She also took second for the 3000 meter race at the August 2017 event.
In summary, Julia is the fastest runner in the country for her age group in the 1500 meter race, and she lives right here on the Old Mission Peninsula. The 14-year-old, who started her running career at Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS), trains with her coach, Judy Franz, also an OMP resident.
Julia’s mom, Theresa Flynn, credits Franz with laying the groundwork for Julia’s success. “Judy is an inspiring and very passionate coach who really helped Julia establish the correct pace, fine-tune her form, and show her stretches and exercises to help avoid injury,” said Theresa.
But running has never interfered with Julia’s school studies. She’s an A student who takes all advanced level core courses at East Middle School. “She’s an extremely self motivated child who holds herself to pretty high standards,” said Theresa.
Julia’s first experience with running happened at an OMPS “Field Day” when she was in second grade. “I fell at the start line, so I walked the whole thing,” she said. “The first time that I found out I could actually run fast was in the third grade Fun Run. I did that race, and then I did ‘Girls on the Run‘ in third grade. In fourth grade, they offered cross country and track at OMPS, so I’ve been running ever since fourth grade.”
When Julia was in sixth grade, her aunt sent her the info for the AAU Junior Olympics in Texas and encouraged her to do it. “She said, ‘You should do this race,'” said Julia, “And I was like, no. I was really scared, but my mom said, ‘Just try it out.'”
After running the 1500 meter race at that event, she followed it with track at school and decided to train for the Junior Olympics again this year. “I was kind of unsatisfied with my track season,” said Julia. “A lot of the meets got rained out, and the last meet I did, I got second in the mile and fourth in the two-mile. I was like, that doesn’t reflect who I am. I can do better. So I’m like, I’m doing the Junior Olympics again. Boom.”
For the record, Julia’s winning time for the 1500 meter race in August, for which she won the gold medal, was 4 minutes and 56.55 seconds.
She had her share of jitters on race day and actually started the 1500 meter race at the back of the pack. “I actually was kind of freaked out when I started, because I was third to last for the first lap or so. There were about 20 girls in my heat, and I tried to start out pretty fast and then settle into my pace. But these girls were starting out super duper fast, so I was like, whoa.”
She worked her way into the middle of the pack and kept an eye on a girl in a yellow jersey who had previously beat her in the regionals (Julia came in second for both the 1500 and 3000 meter races at regionals). “So, I’m like, ok I can see her. I know which one she is, so just follow her. So for the next two laps, I moved up as she moved up.”
Julia eventually passed the girl in the yellow jersey and found herself competing with another girl towards the finish line. “I was in sixth at the 200 meter point, and second at the 100 meter point. I just kept passing people.”
She added, “I was focused on getting to the finish line first, but then I heard the girl breathing who was really close behind me, and that freaked me out. When they’re breathing down your neck, you’re kind of focused on the person behind you.You can’t really hear anybody else, and you’re just going for it. When I crossed the finish line, I was like ok, I did it. Because I was thinking, ‘I just want to get third or just beat the girl in yellow.'”
As for whether she’ll move on to the regular Olympics games, she’s not sure about that. “It would be a huge honor to be in it, but training for that is a whole different level,” noted Julia. “It’s a huge lifestyle change, and like a whole other career.”
But she definitely would encourage other kids to pursue the Junior Olympics. “I would say they should go for it. It’s a great experience, and you get a whole different perspective on your local track meets. No matter how you do, it’s just great for the experience. It’s a huge accomplishment in itself. I mean, you’re in the Junior Olympics.”
Check out Julia’s post-race interview over at MileSplitUSA.