JULIA ZRINYI can credit her brand-new Nike Victory shoes all she wants, but when her first coach, Sheldon Reynolds, saw her way back in Grade 5, he knew there was something special in this lanky kid.
"I've always been very lanky and small," she said Sunday as she prepared for the relay at the Western Canadian midget/youth track and field championships at the University of Manitoba Stadium.
"Mr. Reynolds found me and decided that I should run distance, so I have been keeping at it ever since. He's retired now, and Andy Tuff is now my coach at Tough Track Athletes.
On Saturday, Zrinyi, 15, ran a time of four minutes 35 seconds to win the youth 1,500 metres, one of only two events she entered this weekend.
"It was a two-second personal best," she beamed, and it qualifies me for the world youths next summer if I make it. They only take two people, so they look at how your whole season has been."
Zrinyi says that her season has been pretty good, and a highlight was breaking Olympian Angela Chalmers 31-year-old record in the provincial high school junior varsity 800 metres. Zrinyi ran a time of 2:12.14, beating Chalmers' mark of 2:12.90.
"She has long levers and is built like a middle-distance runner," Tuff said of Zrinyi. " I would say that she has a very beautiful stride, and has also developed the speed of 200 as well, which has really helped her 800 this year, and she still has the endurance for the 1,500 and even 3,000 if she wanted to."
Next up for Zrinyi is the Legion Nationals in Ottawa next month.
"It has been a long year and she is gearing up for the national Legions, and her focus there is the 1,500 metres," he said. "We do a lot of racing over the season, and being young you don't want to over-race."
Breaking Chalmers' record was impressive, said Tuff. "Really she put that in as her goal. I never like to set goals likes that, putting pressure for records like that. But it was brilliant of her to do that, and she went on to Canadian juniors, and ran a 2:11.06, which was even a lower time."
Tuff says that once the Legion Nationals are out of the way, Carly Paracholski's provincial 1,500 record of 2:05.99 could be next. "I don't want to put any pressure on her," said her coach, "but I expect that she will perform very well, and she will go lower in time. She just keeps setting the bar higher, and she's just learning to race."