Julia Zrinyi ran a blistering race late last month at a prestigious track meet. Now comes the hard part: waiting to see if her time is fast enough to make Team Canada.
Zrinyi, a talented middle-distance specialist from Whyte Ridge, clocked in at 2:07.65 in the 800-metres at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, a meet that featured plenty of faces that will be in London for this summer’s Olympics.
That time is almost a second and a half faster than her previous early-season best, and is the quickest by a junior woman in Canada so far this year.
The runners with the top two times prior to June 17 will represent Canada in Barcelona at the IAAF World Junior Championships.
"I was really happy with the race," said the 17-year-old, who will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall after graduating from Vincent Massey Collegiate. "I’ve never run this fast this early in the season. It’s looking promising for this season."
Zrinyi wore the Maple Leaf in Lille, France, last summer in the IAAF World Youth Championships, where she ran a personal-best of 2:06.78 in the semifinal and missed qualifying for the final by 22/100ths of a second. That first taste of global competition has her itching to get to Spain.
"It was an amazing experience," she said. "It gave me confidence in myself that I could go out fast in the race. I went with the lead pack in the semis, so in Stanford I had the confidence to do it again."
Although she was the sixth-ranked runner heading into her heat at Stanford, Zrinyi finished a strong second, passing three competitors down the stretch.
"I was very proud of her," said Andy Tough, Zrinyi’s coach since she was in Grade 5. "She managed to kick it in. She really put the hammer down. She’s very aggressive when she races."
As much as she was there to race, Zrinyi also used the Stanford meet as a chance to observe some of the best runners in the world, many of whom used the event to post Olympic-standard times.
It wasn’t until her Grade 10 year, when she won the national youth 1,500-metre title, that Zrinyi realized how much potential she had in the sport.
"That made me realize I could do these things," she said, "like getting a scholarship or running for Canada."
Tough isn’t sure how much of Zrinyi’s success should be attributed to natural talent, but does know her work ethic and drive are major assets.
"The real thing is her passion, and her desire to reach a goal," he said. "Last year her goal was to make the Canadian team before outdoor season started.
"It would be great (if she did it again). She would see a whole different type of racing. Last year she was proud to put on the Canadian singlet and to meet so many other athletes. The team atmosphere is such a great thing."