Track and Field: Julia Junkrowski vaults onto national scene
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media August 3, 2012 10:06PM
Lincoln-Way East's Julia Junkrowski en route to placing sixth at the USATF Junior Olympics last week in Baltimore. Junkrowski also placed sixth in her age group at the AAU games in Houston later in the week. Supplied photo
Julia Junkrowski wasn’t the only Southlander to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics, held last week in Houston. Other local competitors included:
Aaliyah Brown, Sr., Lincoln-Way East: Illinois sprint queen took second in the 100-meter semifinals at 11.89 second, and third in the 200 semis (24.33).
Hannah Cohn, Flossmoor resident: Incoming freshman at St. Ignatius finished 47th of 96 in the 200 meters at 25.83 seconds.
Aliyah Harmon, Sr., Rich Central: Second place at 3A state in the long jump, Harmon took sixth at nationals in the event with a leap of 18 feet, 5 inches. She added a ninth-place finish in the triple jump (37-10).
Brian Mays, Sr., Rich South: Was 27th out of 70 in the 200 meters (22.25).
Kyndall Wallace, Frankfort resident: The incoming Lincoln-Way East freshman was 20th out of 73 in the 800 with time of 2 minutes, 28.09 seconds.
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:08AM
You’d think USA Track & Field would have its hands full, working with Olympians in London.
But the governing body also has to get future crops of Olympians ready, and at last week’s USATF National Junior Olympics, Lincoln-Way East sophomore-to-be Julia Junkrowski put herself on the watch list for 2016 and beyond.
Competing at the Baltimore event, which concluded Monday, along with 8,000 other participants, Junkrowski hit the best height of her young career, pole vaulting 11 feet, 4 inches to finish sixth and earn All-American status among vaulters born in her 1996-97 age group.
“I was pretty positive I was going to have a (personal record) there; I was planning on that going in,” Junkrowski said. “I had a few really good practices the week before where I was hitting good heights.”
In order to make it to the national event, Junkrowski needed a pair of top-five performances at USATF-sponsored events. At the USATF Illinois state meet, Junkrowski finished as runner-up, earning her a berth to the Indianapolis regional. There, she took third, competing with athletes from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin, to book her ticket to the national event.
Junkrowski, however, was no one-hit wonder. Less than a week after her finish at the USATF Junior Olympics, she again topped her personal best, jumping 11-5 at the AAU Junior Olympics in Houston. She added another All-American status and sixth-place finish to her impressive national meet total.
“I’m really proud of my achievements this summer, setting a new personal best at two different national meets,” she said. “I’ve trained really hard with my coach, Bob Cervenka, all summer to get here and it has all paid off. It feels great to be a two-time All-American.”
The field specialist — she was 14th in the high jump at the USATF meet — said she’s a summer mainstay with Cervanka’s Jump High Athletic Club. She regularly works out with the club a few times a week, and her plan is to practice once per week with Cervenka and the club once school kicks into gear.
When track and field starts in the spring, a familiar face once again will push her onward and upward. Her father, Rob, a state qualifier on pole vault in his days at St. Laurence, moonlights as the Lincoln-Way East vaulting coach.
“It’s really helpful to go home and talk about the event or practice,” she said. “He knows my strengths and weaknesses more than someone else would, and I think he likes coaching a lot.”
Rob conceded as much, saying, “I’d love to do it all four years with her. I just enjoy doing it. Seeing her do her personal best and seeing her qualify for state and win sectionals as a freshman is probably my best memory as a coach.”
Junkrowski was a freshman phenom for the Griffins last season, becoming a state placer on high jump (5-3) and a state qualifier in pole vault (11-3). She’s hoping to parlay her national meet success into a strong sophomore season.
“I definitely plan on making it to the state finals again,” Junkrowski said. “I think these summer events help me a lot. It’s good for me to compete against athletes that are jumping higher than me. I was at the lower edge of my age group.”