When Julia Bounds crossed the finish line at the 2008 USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships, held at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Virginia, tears were in her eyes. Her feet were numb from the cold and she was spent from her efforts. Then the 9-year-old Bantam Girls national cross country champion spied her mom through the crowd and mouthed the words, “I won! I won!”
Her coach, Willie Young, never had any doubts. Young, now entering his 19th year as Head Coach and Team Manager of the Palo Alto Lightning Track Club, had e-mailed Julia’s dad, Jay Bounds, before the race. In that e-mail, coach Young said, “Julia’s going to win this.”
Jay Bounds described his emotions upon seeing his daughter cross the finish line, capturing the win in the Bantam Girls division (for girls ages 10 and under), and earning her first national championship title: “Pride. Awe. Amazement. I was shaking because I was so happy for her,” he said. “She started off with a goal to win, and put it all out there and did it.”
Julia’s time of 11 minutes, 34 seconds for the 3-kilometer course was a scant two seconds ahead of second placer Danae Rivers of the New Haven (Connecticut) Age Group Track Club.
Coach Young’s pre-race directions to Julia were to get out quickly from the starting gun and avoid getting caught in a first-turn bottleneck.
“I told her that she had the number two best time in the country,” Young said. “The number one person is going to be here, but on any given day you can always beat this person, and this is your day. You are going to do this.”
Julia Bounds in the lead of the Bantam Girls pack at the 2009 National Junior Olympic XC Championships.
When the gun sounded, the 221 young athletes raced for the first turn. Julia was running in about 5th place. She gradually moved up until she was vying for first. At the urging of coach Young, Julia shifted gears and pulled away for the win.
That made three big wins in a row for the youngster. To compete in the JO National Championship meet, Julia had to qualifythrough the Pacific Association JO Championship and USATF Region 14 JO Championship meets. She handily topped all Bantam Girls at these qualifying events.
Despite Julia’s extraordinary achievement, Julia’s mother, Norleen Bounds, said that her daughter is just like any normal 9-year-old girl. Julia attends the Carey School in San Mateo, Calif. where she enjoys art, PE, and math.
“I like math,” Julia said, “because in my class, math usually has something to do with food.”
According to her mother, the young Bounds plays the piano, loves singing and performing, likes to write and listen to music, and she especially loves animals. Along with two dogs, two cats, and a hamster, the Bounds family has a relatively recent new additiona rabbit.
Norleen Bounds promised Julia the rabbit if she qualified for last summer’s USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships. Given this incentive, Julia turned in a 1,500-meter qualifier for the big meet, where she finished 10th among Bantam Girls. Her time was 5:34.83, despite stumbling when another racer stepped on her foot.
So, Julia earned her new rabbit, who happened to have a famous name.
“We got the bunny at the SPCA,” Norleen Bounds said, “where they named her Cindy because she has this big black spot that looks like (fashion model) Cindy Crawford’s mole.”
Julia displayed an aptitude for sports since she was very young. Norleen Bounds recalls that her daughter excelled at soccer, gymnastics, swimming, “whatever sport she could do.” When she
was 8 years old, Julia ran her first 5-kilometer race and placed 2nd in the 12-and-under age group.
The following spring, Julia joined the Palo Alto Lightning Track
Club, a youth PA/USATF club with about 39 members, ranging from 5 to 18-years-old.
Head Coach Willie Young focuses on complete conditioning for his
young charges, who run on and around the Stanford University track. Practices include basic warm-up drills, stretches, and conditioning based on where his athletes are in the competitive season. He balances endurance training with sprint training, adding in jump rope and push ups for coordination and upper body strength.
“Julia gives her all. We ask for 150 percent and she does it,” coach
Young said. “She’s funny. She has a very good sense of humor. She can focus, though, because she wants to win.”
“She loves it,” her mother added. “She loves coach Willie and
coach Michael (assistant coach Michael Davidson). She loves being with the team, training with the team, encouraging others. The camaraderie, and helping others get better, helps keep her interest.
“She has days [when] she’ll go to soccer practice for an hour-and-a-half, then to track practice for an hour-and-a-half. Then she’ll come
home and be bouncing off the walls. Very high energy.”
Julia charges to victory.
Julia’s mother, however, stresses the importance of balance. She realizes that, at some point, her daughter will have to choose between club soccer and higher level track competition. She said Julia already knows she may have to drop her soccer down to a less competitive level to fit everything in.
“She’s fine with that,” said Norleen. “She clearly loves track and cross
When asked what she enjoyed most about competing at cross country JO
Nationals, Julia replied, “What’s really fun is that I get to meet different people. I like meeting my competition and making friends. I also like the feeling when I run, and I get to travel to different places.”
For 2009, “different places” include spring track meets in Los Angeles, where
Julia is looking forward to a return visit to Disneyland. (She loves roller coasters.) She’s also looking forward to improving on her 10th place finish at last year’s JO track nationals. She feels that she’s much stronger this year, with a cross country season and solid training behind her. A top-3 finish and All-American honors are her goals.
As lofty as these goals seem, coach Young thinks they are attainable.
“She’s a great young lady,” he said.
In fact, Julia reminds Young of another exceptional young runner.
“I can see Julia as possibly the second coming of Jordan Hasay,” he said.
Now, that’s something to shoot for.
Story published in late January, 2009
Julia Bounds, 2008 Bantam Girls National Junior Olympic Cross Country Champion