Bahai News -- Tomanio big surprise for Hawks: Marshwood High School runner is best in Seacoast Thursday, December 19, 2002

Tomanio big surprise for Hawks: Marshwood High School runner is best in Seacoast


Democrat Sports Correspondent
Marshwood runner Julia Tomanio seemingly came out of nowhere this season. (John Nash/Democrat photo)

ELIOT, Maine — It’s nothing new in the world of girls cross country to see fresh faces burst onto the scene each year and tear up the region’s courses.

How Julia Tomanio did it, however, is a slightly different story.

Still the Marshwood High School junior did just that during this past fall, starting the season off as her team’s No. 5 runner before finishing the season as the region’s top performer at the New England championship. Her vast improvement not only culminated in her winning the Western Maine Conference championship meet and her taking home her team’s Most Improved Runner award, but it also played a part in Tomanio earning the 2002 Foster’s Daily Democrat Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year honor.

"She showed up and I couldn’t quite make out what to do about her ability-wise," said Marshwood’s sixth-year coach Kristina Reilley. "I wasn’t sure if she’d be in our top five or not. Part of the process, I think, was she was holding back a little bit. I don’t think she knew what she was capable of."

By the end of the season, Tomanio was proving herself as not just one of the best Seacoast runners, but one of the best runners in the state.

She won the WMC individual title, finished fifth in the Western Maine Class B regional meet, and was ninth at the state championship meet. Her 46th-place finish at the New England meet put her seventh among Maine finishers, but it was her time — a personal best of 19 minutes, 47.28 seconds over the 3.1-mile course at the Riverside Golf Course in Portland.

"I was really happy with it because it was my best time," Tomanio said. "It was the first time I broke 20. Coach couldn’t be there, but she called on a cell phone and told me to break 20 and I did."

In a sport where countless freshmen explode into the ranks to replace older female runners, some of whom slow down as their bodies change as much as their social circumstances, Tomanio took a different trail to the top of the Seacoast’s running heap.

Her first foray into the sport, however, didn’t last long.

"I was going to do it last year, but during the summer I tried to run three miles and I was like, ‘No way, I can’t do this,’" she said with a grin full of braces. "I didn’t think I was a much of a runner so I gave up. It wasn’t good." After two seasons of running track — one indoor, one outdoor — as a sprinter, she gave cross country another try this fall at the urging of some of her Hawk track teammates.

"I was a good sprinter, but I just think I’m a better distance runner," Tomanio said. "I know cross country is my favorite sport. I don’t really have any goals. I just want to run."

"I don’t think we’ve seen Julia’s finest performance yet," said Reilley. "I believe that. If you watch her run, how light on her feet she is and her strides length stays throughout the course, her times are going to continue to drop down. She’s got the mental aspect down. She’s going to come back much stronger."

Tomanio credit’s a lot of her success this season to her friend and teammate, Sarah Chrapek — Marshwood’s No. 2 runner who pushed Tomanio in both meets and practices all season long. Chrapek finished 92nd at New Englands.

"She was really important. We pushed each other through a lot," said Tomanio. "When I started getting close to her, I was trying to keep up with her and then she’d try to keep up with me. We’re about even."

One thing that sets Tomanio apart — and a trait shared by a lot of elite runners — was the ability to withstand that pain that begs the body to slowdown.

"I don’t really know if I’m really better than anybody, but if you just have the mindset to do good and you have the will to succeed, then anybody can do well," Tomanio said. "I just don’t think about it. I don’t think about the pain." When asked where she gets her mental toughness, Tomanio’s on-the-surface answer seems cliché, until you remember you’re talking to a 16-year-old girl with strong beliefs.

"I think God helps me a lot," said Tomanio, who is a devout member of the Bahai Faith — a religion that, according to one Web site, believes humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. "I’m religious and I pray a lot. I would get nervous before every race, but I’d just talk myself out of it and keep a positive outlook. I believe whatever happens is for the best."

"It’s human nature to want to slow down," Reilley said, "but she has the ability to put her mind someplace else. Maybe it’s connected to religion and letting God carry her though, but she has a maturity about her and a competitive attitude that she knows she’s going to feel pain for 20 minutes, but it’s only a small part of her life."

That small part of her life, however, added up to big success in 2002. And while Julia Tomanio’s senior season is still a year away, she won’t be coming from out of nowhere to surprise people next year.

©Copyright 2002, Foster's Online (NH, USA)

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