High school indoor track: Julian runs away from field

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

By Mike London

LANDIS — Eli Julian, state champion— it’s got a nice ring to it.

And he’ll get a nice ring for it.

Julian, a South Rowan junior, has racked up accolades and lofty finishes for years. He adds another notch to his belt as the Post’s Male Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Julian’s gold medal in the 3200 in February’s 3A state Championships was the biggest noise made by a Rowan athlete. His runaway victory at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem was part flying feet and part just being smart.

“From the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed, Eli makes nothing but good decisions,” South coach Tyler Downs said. “He’s just extremely intelligent in everything that he does.”

Logically, the best runners in the 1600 meters in 3A are also the guys who are proficient in the 3200.

Julian might even be a little better in the 1600 than the 3200, but he correctly and shrewdly analyzed the field for the state championships.

He knew exactly what he was up against. He knew exactly what he needed to do to win a state title.

North Lincoln had one of the best teams and asked its runners  to run both long-distance events, searching for the precious points that could mean a state title.

Julian’s major distance competition in 3A, athletes such as North Lincoln’s Stephen Fernetti, West Johnston’s Harper Clark and Atkins’ Will Downs, were all racing in the 1600.

Julian made the calculated gamble to scratch the 1600 and wait for the 3200. He was putting all of his eggs in one basket, so to speak, but he was confident. Julian with fresh legs is something you can always bet on, and he was willing to bet on himself.

“Eli went all-in on the 3200,” Downs said.

Fernetti won the 1600. He won a fiercely contested race by a fraction of a second over Northwood’s Noah Nielson. Clark placed third, with North Lincoln’s Connor Bagwell fourth and Downs fifth.

When it was time for the 3200, Julian was the one top guy who still had a full tank. It was a fine field, but he ran everyone into the ground from the start.

“Eli ran it as  perfect as it could be run,” Downs said. “He hit the gas right from the start with those fresh legs, and he made those other guys hurt. Those were some really solid runners and they tried their best to stay with him, but after three quarters of a mile, he was leaving them. Then he was running alone and pulling away. Everyone else started thinking about trying to finish second.”

Julian ran a time of 9:35.

Clark finished second, 21 seconds behind Julian. Downs was third. Fernetti, who ran the 1000 meters in addition to the 1600 and 3200 and willed North Lincoln to third in the team standings, took fourth place.

It’s only the second indoor track and field championship ever for the Raiders. Nathan Page won the high jump in 1997, for all classifications, with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches.

The indoor state championship is a nice springboard for Julian into the outdoor season.

“Being a state champ hasn’t changed Eli and it won’t change him,” Downs said. “I had to ask him the other day what kind of ring he wants ordered, and he was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ He’s the same humble Eli he’s always been, but he also knows how big this outdoor season is going to be for him. Junior year, this is when the big schools do their recruiting.”

South should have a solid outdoor team. It will be sparked by Julian and the distance people.

“We’ve got this kid, Bricen Burleson, who is serious about running, and Eli is just eating that up because he’s always been serious about it,” Downs said. “Now we’ve got two of them watching the meets on MileSplit and keeping up with all the rankings.”


Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year — Eli Julian, South

Coach of the Year — Tyler Downs, South

Outstanding performances:

3A State Championships

Eli Julian, South Rowan, 1st, 3200, 9:35

Seth Drake, East Rowan, 3rd, pole vault, 13-0

Bricen Burleson, South Rowan, 7th, 1000 meters, 2:40.59

Damir Miller, Carson, tied 10th, high jump, 5-8

Carson 4×800 (Connor Price, James Anderson, Eric Gillis, Gabe Honeycutt), 5th, 8:37.14

1A/2A State Championships

Jamal Rule, Salisbury, 5th, 500 meters, 1:08.78

Quintin Wilson, North Rowan, 8th, 55 hurdles, 8.29

Salisbury 4×200 (Deuce Walker, Rule, Sean Young, Andrew Huffman), 6th, 1:36.81

Salisbury 4×400 (Huffman, Young, Nate Shaffer, Rule), 2nd, 3:36.42