Valley Catholic junior takes third in 400

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior Julia Clark took third in the 400 meters at the the Class 4A state championship meet on Saturday at Hayward Field.

Julia Clark thought she had the track and field world by the tail.

As a freshman competing for the Valley Catholic girls team, Clark was a key cog on the Valiants' 2014 Class 3A state championship squad. She ran the third leg on the Valiants’ 4 x 400-meter relay team that clinched the title for Valley Catholic over Hidden Valley.

The rest of her career — despite Valley shifting up to the 4A level — would unfold in similar fashion, Clark reasoned. Individual first place medals. More team titles. All would go according to plan the next three years because winning state is easy, right? At least that’s how it seemed on the surface.

It was, that is, until Clark found the footing in 4A competition much trickier and slicker than expected. Injuries and slower times prevented Clark from reaching the 2015 state meet in any of her four events last season as a sophomore.

Success is finicky, as Clark found out, which only made her Hayward Field homecoming at the Class 4A track and field state championship meet on Saturday that much more gratifying. Clark took third in the 400 (at 59.48) seconds, breaking the 60-second barrier for the third time in two weeks.

“The whole season, I was just hungry because I wanted to come back here,” said Clark. “My freshman year, I was running under the lights, winning a state championship … then to not go to state last year was kind of a reality check. I knew I had to work really hard to get back here.”

Starting in November, Clark began training and preparing for her return run to the state spotlight, treating each session with focus and drive.

“I wanted this really bad,” said Clark. “My coaches said the hard work would pay off and I didn’t believe it for a while … but I’m pretty proud. This season just meant a lot to me. I’ve worked hard and so long to get here. … It’s just the best feeling.”

Clark took second in the 400 at the Cowapa League district meet and said she tried to carry that same calm demeanor she used there to state.

“I tend to get overwhelmed, so my primary goal was to run my own race,” said Clark. “I didn’t think about the place I was going to get or who I was racing. It was all about beating my time from before, putting one step in front of the other and thinking about myself.”

Clark also ran in the 4 x 100 relay at state, teaming with Rachel Justice, Tara Fuiten and Cassie Wonderlick to place 12th at 52.21. Clark, Fuiten and Wonderlick are all underclassmen scheduled to return next spring.

“It’s a fresher team this year, so having that support and being that support for my team and representing Valley is great,” said Clark. “Look out for us next year — that should be fun.”

Valley Catholic senior Maricela Jaroch placed 14th in the 3,000 (11:55.39) and freshman Kate McNaughton cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump for fourth place. Valley took 16th overall in the team standings with 11 points.

For the Valiant boys, senior Ben Davidson placed third in the 3,000 at 9:10.10, and junior Seancarlos Gonzalez took sixth in the 400 with a time of 51.26. Valley’s 4 x 100 boys relay squad of Gonzalez, Alessandro Tubito, Aidan Gillespie and Joey Biever placed 12th at 44.98. Valley's boys placed 23rd overall with nine points.

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