Youth XC Profile: Julia Bounds
She Knows How to Have Fun: RUNNING!
By Bob Burns
Her first race was a fun run. Come to think of it, all of her races have been fun runs even the one where her feet were numb from the cold and her cheeks streaked with tears.
That was the 2008 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Mechanicsville, Va., where Julia Bounds, a spirited 9-year-old from Redwood City, won the bantam girls title in freezing conditions.
“I actually like running in cold weather, even though you can’t really feel your feet,” she said.
Every race is fun its own way. She’s been fortunate enough to win most of them, but even the occasional defeat brings out the fighter in the 5-foot fifth grader, as she demonstrated a few months ago at the Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
“I’ve never given much thought as to why I like running so much,” Julia said. “I just do.”
Now 10 and in the fifth grade, Bounds will defend her bantam title at the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Reno on Dec. 12, assuming she makes it through regional qualifying. That’s a pretty safe bet, and her experience from last year’s race should calm her pre-race nerves.
At last year’s cross country nationals in Virginia, Bounds was a wide-eyed novice who had been running competitively for just five months. She was blown away by the sheer mass of runners 221 entrants at the starting line
“There was just this big clump,” Bounds said. “I thought, wow, I’m probably not going to do well. But people started dropping back as the race went on.”
She unleashed a strong finishing kick to win by two seconds. Her father, Jay, videotaped the finish, but the camera was shaking from his excitement.
“We knew she could do it,” said her mother, Norleen. “My husband was shaking and Julia was crying as she crossed the finish line. She was used to blowing people away. It wasn’t an easy race for her.”
It wasn’t as difficult as the 1,500-meter final at the 2009 Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in North Carolina. In the first 75 meters of the race, Julia was spiked and fell to the track after another competitor cut her off. Norleen Bounds said their video of the race showed that Julia was down on the track for 10 to 15 seconds.
She eventually climbed to her feet and managed to pass nine runners en route to a seventh-place finish in 5:18.55.
“The worst part was, they disqualified me,” Julia said. “Fortunately, we protested and I got reinstated.”
“I don’t know many other 10-year-olds who would have had the toughness, competitiveness or confidence to do what she did,” Norleen Bounds said.
Bounds also placed fourth in the 800 meters (2:29.89) and sixth in the high jump (3-9¼) at the track and field nationals. She turns 11 in March and will move up to the midget division at the 2010 Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Sacramento. Her personal coach, Michael Davidson, expects her to continue progressing.
“Julia is a very talented young lady,” Davidson said. “Her potential for growth is tremendous. On the track, she’s very focused. Off the track, she’s very much a 10-year-old.”
“She’s very, very social,” her mother said. “The team aspect is very important to her.”
Julia competes for the Pleasanton Heat but trains on the Peninsula with Davidson. She continues to play soccer for a competitive-level team, though cross country now takes precedence in the event of a scheduling conflict.
“In the future, I might change my mind, but right now I love running,” Julia said. “It’s interesting to see my times drop, and I like seeing my friends improve.”
Jay Bounds, an IT manager for Fox Racing, and Norleen, a certified public accountant, have two children. Julia’s older brother, Jason, runs for his middle school cross country team but isn’t terribly interested in the sport.
When she’s not running or socializing, Julia enjoys playing the piano and drawing.
“I like creating things,” she said.
She hopes to create another memorable moment when she defends her title at the upcoming cross country nationals in Reno. She doesn’t mind that she’ll go in as the person to beat, that her opponents will be thinking about her in the months leading up to the race.
“That’s fine,” Julia said. “I think about the other people as much as they think about me.”