The way Julie Thomas saw things, she had no other choice. She had left the last bad vestige of her indoor season at St. Anthony’s and was ready to turn the page. That page happened to be an important one — the state championships — and the Commack thrower was determined to close her season strong.
"I’ve had meets where I’ve fumbled or just had a tough day," Thomas said. "That Saturday, I needed to go there and had no choice but to throw well."
With nowhere else to turn — she wasn’t allowing herself to do it any other way — Thomas went ahead and won a state shot put championship. The junior threw 40 feet, 10 ½ inches to capture the crown at the state indoor track and field championships, held last Saturday at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.
She is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
"Of course, I was super-duper hyped up on adrenaline," Thomas said. "It was a really great, cool environment. I’ve been working so hard on my technique for the last couple of months. I wanted there to be no choice but to go there on Saturday and have a good outcome."
One Saturday earlier, the outcome was not so good. Thomas threw 39 feet and finished second at the Long Island Elite Meet at St. Anthony’s, struggling with uncharacteristic fouling issues as she prepared for the state meet.
The place wasn’t the issue — she finished third at January’s Suffolk League II championships and was thrilled that she threw a personal-best 41 feet. No, it was the fouling that bothered Thomas. A potential combination of nerves about the upcoming state championships and a general unfamiliarity with the St. Anthony’s throwing circle was most likely to blame for that.
But whatever it was, it needed to be fixed.
"I had to use the week between the Elite Meet and states to basically mellow out, calm down, and be like, ‘all right, you just have to focus on your form, focus on your technique, and make it so solid that you don’t have another option but to do well,’ " Thomas said.
Again, options. Thomas put it in her head that failure wasn’t one of them and, when championship Saturday finally came, she wasn’t nervous, anxious, jittery, or anything of the sort. The fouls at St. Anthony’s were out of the way. That thought calmed her, and she was ready to do whatever she needed to reach the top of the podium.
When Thomas stepped in the Ocean Breeze circle, it all felt right. The fouling stayed in South Huntington and the winning came to Commack.
"I knew that a championship was possible," she said. "I was preparing for the worst, but was also excited that a championship could be in my reach. I thought if I threw like I’d been training and did everything right, then yes, I could win a state championship. That was really cool to think about and even cooler to actually do."