By By Dan Fappiano • 03/23/2022 10:44 AM EST
As she entered her first year without having ever raced competitively, Juliana Espinoza completed her second year as a member of the women’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams at East Haven High School. . Now a senior, Juliana has only gone from strength to strength as a runner, gaining a new appreciation for the sport along the way.
As a freshman, Juliana was encouraged to join the Yellowjackets indoor track team by a few of her friends. Juliana’s mother, Guadalupe, was a marathon runner and thought it was a great idea when Juliana told her she was going to try the track. Yet, as eager as she was to start running, Juliana quickly realized just how tough high school athletics can be.
After enduring grueling conditioning sessions with the indoor track team, Juliana wasn’t sure she would be able to pull it off. However, despite being new to the sport and having competed against older athletes, Juliana decided to resist and began to see progress.
“When I started conditioning, I was like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this.’ I was overwhelmed by the whole race,” says Juliana. “Before every race I was super nervous, I was super scared. I was the only girl on the distance team. But I kind of got the trick. I was competing with senior girls, but I was able to keep up with them. I felt like I had done well for never having played this sport before.
After a successful indoor track experience, Juliana joined the Yellowjackets outdoor track team in her first season. When she became a sophomore, track coach Rusty Dunne encouraged her to compete in cross country. Within two years, Juliana became a member of three teams at East Haven and began to see the big picture in the sport.
“Joining the outdoor track I fell in love with competing and seeing all the different events. People think he’s just running, when he’s not. There’s the jumping and the throwing. It was interesting. I didn’t know that when I started.” says Julienne. “My indoor track coach told me to do cross-country to help me condition for the season. . I decided to join. »
Signing up for cross country made sense for Juliana, as she is a long-distance runner with the Easties track teams. Juliana runs 800 to 3200 and often competes in multiple distance events in a given competition. While she may not have the top speed of a sprinter, once Juliana has some distance under her spikes, she’s ready to take on anyone.
“Distance is my thing. I know I’m not fast when I start. I need at least 400 meters to build up my speed. I just keep my pace throughout the race,” explains Juliana: “When I’m almost at my last lap, I just applaud. I clap for myself and I’m like, ‘Keep going. You have that.'”
Competing for three different teams, Juliana had the opportunity to participate in many post-season encounters. Last spring, Juliana finished fifth in the 3200m when away team East Haven won first place at the CSC West Section Championship. As the stakes are higher in the Championships, Juliana makes sure to keep cheering herself on and reminding herself that she belongs.
“I keep thinking to myself, ‘You got this no matter what,'” Juliana says. “’You know how to run. You have already done this. You’ve been doing this for two, three years now. You know how to keep your rhythm. I’m just encouraging myself.
Coach Dunne has watched Juliana become one of East Haven’s top distance runners over the past few years. In addition to winning the West Division title, the Yellowjackets went 5-0 in double meetings during the outdoor season last spring. Dunne knows that none of these things would have been possible without Juliana’s performances.
“Juliana is a pleasure to coach. If she doesn’t finish fifth in the 3,200 meters at the SCC West Championships last spring, we don’t win the title,” Dunne said. “Juliana does everything required, running the 800, 1600 and 3200 in the same dual competition. We were 5-0 last spring, and without his points in those events, that’s not going to happen.
As a runner, Juliana has found an activity that helps her face and get away from everyday difficulties. As a member of the Yellowjackets, Juliana has found a team that shares that passion and a group of teammates that she will race side by side with as friends long after they graduate.
“Running for me is a thing of adapting. I like running. Every time I feel bad. I go for a run. It just makes me forget things when things get tough. I fell in love. I could race forever,” says Juliana. “I’m proud to be a runner for East Haven. I’ll always be there for the team. We’re all great athletes and know how to work together. Each of us has our own events, but we are always there, helping each other.