Eli Julian — All-American as an 8-year-old
Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 22, 2013
Scott Julian once told his kids, “You are going to be active. You aren’t going to sit around playing computer games and stay in the house all the time.”
He wanted his two sons and daughter to get out and exercise. After all, his family has a long standing tradition of running successfully.
Eli Julian, at 8 years old, has just excelled while racing twice in the same week against national class competition. In the Amateur Athletic Union or AAU Cross Country Nationals at Augusta, Ga., on Dec. 7, Eli placed second out of 79 children with a time of 7 minutes and 47 seconds over a 2,000-meter course. His 10-year-old brother, Noah, placed 29th out of 75 in his age group on a 3,000-meter course.
Just a week later, Eli faced a stiff headwind as he pushed to a 7 minute, 47 second time in San Antonio at the United States Track and Field or USATF Nationals. Eli finished sixth out of 209 competitors. Noah placed 157th out of 329 in the 3,000-meter race.
Eli was awarded All-American status at both races. But he isn’t the first All-American in his family. His mother, Rebekah Frick Julian, placed 10th nationally as a 9-year-old. She later went on to spectacular success in high school by placing first in the 1992 3A North Carolina Cross Country Championships. In 1993, Rebekah won both the 1600 and 3200 3A North Carolina Championships. Her one mile time of 5 minutes and 15 seconds still stands as the North Carolina state record. Rebekah ran collegiately for UNC Wilmington.
Both Eli and Noah started competing four years ago with the YMCA Warriors Cross Country Team, headed by coaches Kevin and Ester Marsh. “Both were middle of the pack runners the first year. They had competed in road race fun runs and liked them. Both had played baseball and basketball, but found their real passion in running,” said Rebekah.
Eli always races with his trademark headband, except for the 2013 Dairy Dash 5K when the family mistakenly left it at home. He said, “My dad put it on my head one day, and now I always wear it because it gives me strength.” Eli has several mottos that he follows on race day, including “run faster and you get finished quicker” and “when the going gets tough, keep going.” He also enjoys running near the front of the race pack, while brother Noah prefers starting in the mid-pack and using strategy to improve his placing.
Little sister Hope has followed suit by competing as a 3-year-old in 1,000-meter races for the Warriors. Hope quickly exclaimed after her first race, “I beat two boys!” She completed the Augusta AAU Nationals 1,000 meter race, running against girls, 6 and under.
Scott and Rebekah decided early that they didn’t want to push their kids toward a certain sport. Scott, a successful high school runner himself, had spent time as the South Rowan High School coach. Both had excelled for the East Rowan High School cross country team, and Rebekah had gained national prominence as a member of the Faith Flyers Track Team. Rebekah’s twin brother Benjamin also achieved All-American status with a seventh place nationally at age 9. Grandfathers on both sides, Woody Frick and Mike Julian, had been successful runners. Frick ran cross country for Garinger High School and UNCC in Charlotte, while Julian ran a strong 2 hour and 40 minute Charlotte Observer marathon and completed two Ironman Triathlons.
Scott and Rebekah felt that their kids would enjoy the team aspect of competition. Other cities had strong teams for young athlete development, so they were glad to find out about the Warriors. “Teams help everyone to work hard. They learn the proper way to train. It’s all about the running and the exercise,” said Rebekah. She credits Kevin and Ester Marsh with organizing a great program. Rebekah added, “Scott and I love helping out with the team. The kids do quality workouts, but without high mileage. The kids learn how to race mentally, which is so important.”
When asked about the Julian kids, Kevin Marsh said, “Having Noah, Eli, and Hope on the team have been a coach’s dream. The boys are always up front no matter what kind of workout I have them do. They all have the desire to improve every time they toe the starting line. The real credit goes to their parents, who both understand the kind of commitment it takes to compete at this level.” Ester Marsh agreed, “These kids are very talented runners, but they are a pleasure to be around as well. All three are very respectful and hard-working children. Both Scott and Rebekah have volunteered continually to help with the team, and they work to keep a great balance in their family.”
That family balance has been especially important to Scott and Rebekah. Scott said, “This is a great bonding time for the family. It is a cherished blessing for me. The travel allows us lots of family time when we can talk about lots of things.” Rebekah agreed, “I have been competing in races since I was eight. Now we can race together with the boys, and it is the highlight of my career. We always find a way to make running fun.”
Rebekah recalled with tears in her eyes the first time that the boys asked her to run with them in a race. She remembered the Tom Cowden 5K last spring at Sloan Park when she ran with the boys as they both set personal bests. “It was a most wonderful feeling,” she said.
The kids have goals for the 2014 season. Eli wants to beat his Uncle Benjamin’s 3,000 meter time. Noah wants to beat 11 minutes and 40 seconds for the 3,000 meter race. Hope just wants to impress Coach Ester, and to beat more boys.