Salute to Seniors: Julia Collum of Villa Walsh Academy

Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". We invite this year's seniors to tell their stories from the past four years. With the loss of the spring season we hope we can offer a chance to reflect on all the great moments this class did get to experience.

The series will run into the summer. Please note that there is a queue of submissions that keeps growing so there may be a wait until final publishing, but we will get to your piece. 

For instructions on how to submit a piece please see this announcement article

Julia Collum

Villa Walsh Academy

What was your greatest accomplishment?

There was a 6-minute difference in my time from Footlocker Regionals junior and senior year, which to me symbolizes my recovery from back surgery. Junior year, I ran the race because I'd missed almost the entire cross country season because I was recovering from a spinal fusion and just wanted to "race". It was less than a month after I'd been cleared to run, and I was so slow that my name doesn't even appear in the results, but I was so happy just to be running. Senior year, I ran in the junior-senior race, was 6 minutes faster, and medaled. I was so proud when they announced my name because I'd come so far from a year ago.

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

I had a major spinal fusion surgery at the end of sophomore year. I couldn't run for 6 months, and recovering from this surgery is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. When I came back to junior year winter track, I'd lost so much speed and strength. I was so frustrated but knew that it would come back eventually with the proper training. Overall, I stayed pretty positive, something that wouldn't have been possible without the steady support of my amazing teammates. I worked really hard through spring track, summer training, and cross country to regain my endurance and racing abilities. Finally, at XC Groups this past season, I broke my Holmdel PR and knew that I had surpassed where I previously was.

What will you miss the most?

Spending time with my teammates is hands down the best part of track and cross country and what I'm most upset about leaving. I just loved that there were 2 hours after school every day and more time on weekends, where my friends and I consistently hung out and had so much fun. If I didn't love my teammates, I wouldn't have continued running and wouldn't have improved so much. Thanks to track and cross country, I found my absolutely best friends and strongest support system.

What advice would you give to younger athletes?

Mental strength and endurance is just as important as (or maybe even more important than) your physical fitness and speed. The athletes who are able to go above and beyond are those who set a goal, create a plan of action, and don't let anything get in their way. Resilience is key when hardship arises: be flexible enough to adapt, and strong enough to keep moving forwards. Determination, dedication, and discipline set apart the best from the mediocre.

What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?

Over the past 4 years, I've had over 10 coaches between cross country, winter track, and spring track. Each coach has brought a unique dynamic to the team and taught us their own lessons. Through this frequent turnover, I've also learned how to adjust my training and what works for me to different coaching styles, how to interact with different coaches, and how to find or create continuity when there's lots of change.

What are your post-high school or college plans?

I'm going to George Washington University and plan on joining the club cross country and track team. I also want a half marathon in the near future (unfortunately the NJ half, which I was planning on running, was postponed), and if that goes well, maybe some more.

Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?

1) All of my coaches, especially the cross country ones, Coach Ehmann, Coach DeGraw, and Coach Frange, because they all taught me something new about running and helped me grow as an athlete and as a person in different ways

2) My teammates, especially Hope Crann and Sarah Hanifin, for pushing me to be my best, making running fun even when it wasn't, supporting me through every single obstacle I've had to face, and making me more confident in myself

3) The officials and the people from other teams who I've seen at meets for the past 4 years and become friendly with for making me look forwards to racing even more.