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St. John's cross-country runner earns All-American title

Julia Howley finished 15th at NCAA national championships

Julia Howley

St. John's cross-country runner Julia Howley, far right, led her SFU team to a 10th place finish at the NCAA DII National Championships. (SFU)

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Long before the leaves changed colour and the season started, Simon Fraser University (SFU) runner Julia Howley wrote down a goal in her practice journal — finish 15th at the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) national championships.

"I was able to just hold on this weekend and fulfill that goal in my last cross-country race of my collegiate career. So it was really exciting," she told CBC.

Julia Howley

From a goal set in August to standing on the stage with the top 15 runners in the NCAA DII, Howley, far right, collects her 'All-American' trophy. (GNAC Sports)

On Saturday, Nov. 18 in Evansville, Indiana, the senior at SFU found herself standing with some of the top cross-country runners in the NCAA Division II.

Finishing in the top 40 earns runners an "All-American" status. Howley's 15th place showing in the six-kilometre race earned her a special keepsake in the form of an NCAA trophy — one that now "looks good" in her room.

But her dream race almost got blown away. 

"The race was scheduled to go off at 10:15 [Eastern Standard Time]. But some severe weather was forecasted for Saturday with some tornado warnings," said Howley.

Julia Howley

The 15th place finish in Indiana is an improvement on her performance at the meet last year where she finished 29th. (SFU)

Organizers had to act as fast as the runners competing in their event — quickly moving the start time up by two hours. 

"Which means we were all up eating our bananas and peanut butter at 5:30 in the morning, getting ready to run," Howley said.

"So it was a little bit of a funny schedule."

The 21-year-old senior at SFU crossed the finished line in a time of 21:21. Her 15th place finish is the second highest for SFU in the NCAA's championship race.

It was Lindsay Butterworth in a 2012 race that had the best all-time finish for SFU. 

"[She] competed at the World Championships for Canada this past summer, so it's not a bad person to be behind," Howley said.

"Kinda cool to see my name up with hers," she added.

With her cross-country career completed at Simon Fraser, Howley will take a few weeks off before getting ready for the indoor and outdoor track season. 

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