Julia Flower provided Section II with a highlight performance last month when she exploded off the line and ran away to a victory at the William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet.
The Schalmont High School sophomore clocked a 4:32.09 for 1,500 meters that day. The year before, on the same weekend of the Eddy Meet, she ran a 5:10.7 at that distance at Fonda-Fultonville’s Frosh-Soph Meet.
“She’s gained a lot of ground in a short time,” said Schalmont distance coach Rich Kranick.
Eating up ground is something the former swimmer has become quite adept at. Her name appears five times on the Schalmont record list for individual running events, and she isn’t even through with her first full year of scholastic competition.
The gem on that list is the 4:32.09, which has her seeded second overall and first among Division 2 athletes for the New York State Track and Field Championships slated for today and Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
“I’ll probably be a little nervous,” said the soon-to-be 16-year-old, who will run Saturday at 11:25 a.m.. “I’ll try to get out so I don’t get stuck.”
Flower had no company at the Eddy Meet when she opened up a big lead and held it while shattering the 1,500 record by well over three seconds.
“She followed the game plan to a ‘T,’ ” said Kranick. “Some people thought that was a stupid thing to do, but she needed to get out. That was the plan. She ran the race perfectly.”
Kranick sent Flower a text message the night before the Eddy Meet.
“I’ll throw something out there, like a carrot,” he said. “On that one I wrote, ‘The meet record is 4:35. You’re going to break the record and no one is going to be with you.’ ”
Flower had prevailed in the 1,500 at the Tartan Strong Invitational, the Kingston Tiger Relays, the Marsh-Galotta Invitational and at the Colonial Council Championships, and, following the Eddy Meet, notched wins at that distance afterward at the Section II Group 3 Championships and the state meet qualifier.
Her spring season has included several invitational 800 wins, as well.
“She’s changed technique. She gets out faster now. She was having trouble at the start line in cross country and halfway through indoor,” said Kranick. “She gets out on the gun and it helps out a lot. She’s also gained experience just by running races, and she knows when to pick it up.”
Flower couldn’t find a second gear at the state meet qualifier and closed in 4:47.59. At Marsh-Galotta, she popped a 4:37.0 and at the Tiger Relays, she had run a 4:38.3.
“We wanted to hit something a little better. She started off well and then came apart. Still, she qualified, and that’s the most important thing,” said Kranick. “When she has an off day, she’ll usually come back with a home run.”
Flower bounced back in a big way after running a second-place 4:46.2 at the Burnt Hills Invitational with her 4:37.0 at Marsh-Galotta. The day after the state meet qualifier, she placed 23rd out of 3,611 entrants in 17:59 at the five-kilometer Freihofer’s Run For Women.
“She was second in her division,” said Kranick. “The girl who won was a 19-year-old from Ethiopia.”
Flower was just 5 when she began to compete for the Marlins Swim Club, and joined the Mohonasen/Schalmont varsity team as a freshman.
“I tried track [last spring] as a way to stay in shape. That’s the off season for swimming,” said Flower. “I liked it. I found out that I liked running, and I was pretty good at it.”
Flower stayed on her feet in the fall, and won at the first cross country invitational she entered, at Voorheesville, and a victory at Schenectady’s Grout Run soon followed. The high point came with a victory at the Section II Class C meet, and she ran 17th afterward at the state meet.
“It wasn’t a tough transition, from swimming to running,” said Flower. “All of the swimming helped me, as far as endurance.”
Flower’s indoor season included 1,500 and 800 wins at the Colonial Council and Section II Group 3 championship meets, and an eighth in the 1,500 at the state meet, where she clocked a personal-best 4:46.65.
“She was seeded 14th and got eighth. She got on the podium,” said Kranick. “That was important for her. That was a goal we talked about.
“We set little goals all the time, but they’ve got to be realistic. We’re not going to aim for a four-minute 1,500. She’s hit a lot of those goals.”
Flower goes after her goals with gusto, even while doing miles of hill work.
“She does what she needs to do, and never complains about it,” said Kranick. “It’s gut work. She knows there’s a purpose to what we do.”
It is for meets like Saturday, where the No. 2 Division 2 seed, Sage Hurta of Hamilton, will come in with a 4:37.11 entry. Next among Division 2 runners is Sophia Tasselmyer of East Aurora with a 4:32.02 entry.
“She’s not going to set a state record, but would we like to hit a time? Yes,” said Kranick. “That would be great, but what I really want is to see her at the top of the podium.”
“Maybe both,” said Flower. “Maybe a good time and a first. I’m pretty confident because I’ve put in the work.”
Flower’s 4:32.09 currently ranks No. 3 in the state. Division 1 runner Tiana Guavara of Miller Place is entered in the 1,500 at 4:30.43. Another Division 1 runner, Jessica Lawson of Corning, has 4:31.86 on her ledger, but has opted for the state meet 800.
Bianco, Brown No. 1
Section II’s other female top seeds are Ellery Bianco of Saratoga Springs (D-1 No. 1, 400 hurdles, 60.55); Leah Moran of Stillwater (D-2 No. 1, triple jump, 38-2 1⁄4); Olivia Mooney of Cambridge (D-2 No. 1 tie, overall No. 1 tie, championship high jump, 5-7); Leah Triller of Holy Names (D-2 No. 2, overall No. 4, championship 800, 2:12.35); Grace Smith of Bethlehem (D-1 No. 3, overall No. 5, championship high jump, 5-7); Kara Snyder of Colonie (D-1 No. 3, overall No. 4, championship pole vault, 11-7); Zoe Doolittle of Glens Falls (D-2 No. 4, shot put, 38-5 1⁄2); Kalli Manly of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (D-1 No. 5, overall No. 7, championship pole vault, 11-3); Nastasja Johnston of Columbia (D-1 No. 5, long jump, 19-0); Nikari Carota of Queensbury (D-1 No. 5 tie, 100 hurdles, 14.73); Jessica Craven of Shenendehowa (D-1 No. 5, discus, 127-5); Carly Bulich of Catskill (D-2 No. 5, 100 hurdles, 15.64); and Heather Chapman of Granville (D-2 No. 5, discus, 121-7).
Section II’s male top seed are Izaiah Brown of Amsterdam (D-1 No. 1, 400, 47.64); Jeremy Spiezio of Greenwich (D-2 No. 1, overall No. 4, championship 1,600, 4:13.87; D-2 No. 1, overall No. 3, championship 3,200, 9:07.81); Don Thorington of Cobleskill-Richmondville (D-2 No. 2, shot put, 55-1 3⁄4); Aidan Tooker of Saratoga Springs (D-1 No. 3, overall No. 4, championship 3,200, 9:10.97); Steve Booker of Bethlehem (D-1 No. 4, overall No. 5, championship 3,200, 9:12.54); Shawn Bleichert of Shenendehowa (D-1 No. 4, 110 hurdles, 14.62); Darian Blanks of Hudson (D-2 No. 4, 200, 22.29); Max Comer of Schuylerville (D-2 No. 4, 400 hurdles, 55.91); Jay Navin of Saratoga Springs (D-1 No 5, overall No. 5, championship 800, 1:53.78); and Amsterdam’s 1,600 relay (D-1 No. 5, 3:20.31).
Brown won Division 1 and Federation titles last year as a sophomore in the 400, setting a Section II record in 47.20.