St. John's runner shatters Simon Fraser University steeplechase record
Julia Howley's record run qualifies her for NCAA national championships
In the final few weeks of her running career at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Julia Howley of St. John's is unleashing a strong finishing kick.
At the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alta, Calif., on March 29, the 22-year-old tore apart the field in the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase event.
"I had a really good race and I was able to set a NCAA Division II-leading time [10:03.19]," she said over the phone from SFU's Burnaby campus.
"I'm really happy with how it's set me up for the rest of the season."
Howley beat second-place finisher Abby Caldwell of Iowa State by more than 27 seconds, and her time shattered the 2007 SFU record of 10:26.83 set by Meredith MacGregor.
It's also the fastest 3,000-metre steeplechase race ever run in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as Howley bested the 2014 time of Western Washington University's Katelyn Steen, 10:13.01.
"It's something that has been on my radar for a while," Howley said.
"I did a few steeplechases last year so I knew I was capable of being under the record."
Howley is in her fifth year at SFU, the lone Canadian university to compete in the United States in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II.
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She sat out part of last season so tht she could use her final bit of eligibility to run in this outdoor track season.
The steeplechase is a relatively new event for the runner, who started competing in the race only last year.
"I used to be a figure skater so I'm pretty good at jumping and landing on my feet," said Howley.
"I thought this might be the challenge — running 3,000 metres, which I am pretty good at — and adding some jumps in there."
Tale of two talented townies in B.C.
A few days before Howley's record run, another St. John's Julia was honoured by Simon Fraser University.
Cross-country and track running star Julia Howard was inducted into SFU's Hall of Fame.
Howard attended SFU from 2003-2006, winning 10 individual championships, seven relay team championships and represented Canada at the 2007 and 2009 World University Championships.
When the news hit Twitter in St. John's it created a bit of a confusion; who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Julia Howard or Julia Howley?
"I woke up the next day with about 20 notifications on Twitter, which is pretty funny for me because I really don't use Twitter," Howley said. "People tagging me and saying that there were typos that it was actually me who had gotten the award."
Howley did her best to correct people, posting a picture of both runners together at the March 26 ceremony.
confusing, right?! two Julia How___’s from St John’s running for SFU - here’s the proof! We are two separate athletes! 🤦🏼♀️ <a href="https://t.co/ea0qfza0If">pic.twitter.com/ea0qfza0If</a>—@HowleyJulia
"Two Julia Hows from St. John's running at the same school in British Columbia is a bit of a strange coincidence, so we laughed about it," said Howley.
All jokes aside, the younger Julia credits Howard as an inspiration and the reason she chose to run for Simon Fraser, a decision that comes with no regrets as Howley gets set to end her running career.
Her time at the Stanford Invitational guarantees her a spot in the NCAA DII Outdoor Track and Field championships in Kingsville, Texas, May 23-25.
"I'm just going to focus on getting some good races in, hopefully get some faster times, and hopefully everything will line up really well so that I can achieve some big things at nationals in May."