Julien Dillon didn’t bring home a first place award but he did well at the most prestigious track and field event in the country and he returned with memories that will last a lifetime.
The USATF National Junior Track and Field Championships were held the final four days of July at Wichita State University in Kansas. Just competing here is high honor as only the best track athletes in the country qualify. In the case of Julien, he had to qualify in the top 8 in each event he entered during the state district meet in Seattle in late June. Then he had to repeat those top 8 finishes in the regional meet held in Spokane. Only then did he qualify for the National Championships.
Julien is 14, an enrolled member of the Puyallup Tribe, and going into the 9th grade this fall. That places him in the youth boys division.
His uncle, Phillip Dillon, explained how Julien got into track just two years ago. “He never had any interest in track but his football coach, Mike Williams, said he should try it. ‘It will probably help with your speed and help you out in football,’ he said. His passion is football. He runs track and plays basketball but football is where his heart is.” But when he tried out for the track team it was an instant success.”
Julien qualified in three events all the way to Nationals. He runs the 100 and 200 meter dashes and throws the shot put. If you know track and field, you know that’s an unusual combination of events. Shot putters tend to be large, muscular athletes whereas sprinters are generally smaller and leaner. But Julien qualified for nationals in all three events.
In Seattle he took second in the shot put, second in the 100, and fourth in the 200. Spokane was similar, again finishing second in the shot put, fifth in the 100, and second in the 200.
The competition at Nationals is extremely tough, with the best athletes from throughout the country competing. There were 40-50 entrants in each of the three events Julien entered. He finished midway in the pack in both the 100 meters and 200 meters with times of 11.92 in the 100 and 24.54 in the 200. He fouled on two of the three throws in the shot put and no distance was recorded.
Temperatures hovered near 100 degrees through the four days of competition and that was a problem for someone from much cooler western Washington. “Every time I’d get done running I could hardly breathe. The humidity would like clog my breath,” Julien said.
“I was excited about the meet. I was also surprised how fast people were down there. They were really fast.”
Asked about memories he’ll have he responded, “It will be really cool that I made it to the Junior Olympics.” He also commented he hopes to do this again in future years.
Julien is a running back in football and may also play corner on defense, “but I really want to play safety,” he said. He’ll be a freshman at Chief Leschi High and thinks he’ll be the starter at running back. That’s outstanding for a freshman. He hopes to go on to play football in college, “and hopefully go on to the next level.”
Julien will continue to take part in track during the spring while in high school but there’s no denying where his heart is. “Football is his life,” says Phillip.
This is the 45th year for the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships. Many Olympians got their start here, their first national exposure. Very likely some of this year’s athletes will be seen in the Olympics in future years.