Julia Tunks' Young Throwing Career Is Just Beginning

* On a recent episode of On The Line, Bryan, Cory and Olivia discus the talents of young Canadian thrower Julia Tunks

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Neither Julia Tunks' father, nor her mother, were the inspirations that drove the 13-year-old into track and field last summer. 

That might be surprising, considering Jason, 45, owns the Canadian national record in the discus (67.88 meters) and qualified for three Olympic Games and five World Championships, or that her mother, Lieja Koeman, 44, reached two Olympic Games and four World Championships in the shot put. 

No. It was her brother. 

"I thought I could be better than him if I threw," Julia told MileSplit recently, while on a call alongside her father. "I got jealous and wanted to start throwing." 

Long before that, Jason had seen his daughter excel on the soccer field, becoming one of Ontario's best young goalkeepers. But once she threw the discus and shot put for the first time, he saw something click into place. 

"I've always maintained that she's a thrower who hasn't thrown," said Jason, whose family resides in London, Ontario, which is just north of Cleveland, Ohio. "And once she started throwing, I saw that she had a natural strike on her finish. It didn't take her long to develop certain motor patterns, which for me has been fun to watch." 

When Julia's eighth-grade season was canceled this spring following the global pandemic known as COVID-19, the pair looked for an outlet to compete. So she went to a nearby circle and let the 1 kilogram discus fly, logging a performance of 153 feet (46.64 meters) in the MileSplit Virtual Classic.

That mark currently leads the competition. More than that, it would also rank seventh in the current United States high school girls rankings -- not to mention it's just two meters shy of the 13-year-old World Age Group mark of 48.42 meters, a record held by Corrie de Bruin that's stood for 30 years. 

In December, Julia also grabbed Ontario's U14 shot put record with a 12.67 meter throw (41 feet, 7 inches) at the Youth Meet of Champions in Toronto.

Few eighth-grade girls have ever reached 150 feet in the discus. Since 2010, in fact, just three young athletes have secured throws farther than 140 feet for the 1 kilogram implement (according to our database): In 2017, Faith Bender authored a ridiculous mark of 49.01 meters (160-9).

But it seems as though Julia is picking up on the family skill quite easily. 

There are obvious physical characteristics that make her a candidate to excel in the throws at an early age. She stands roughly at 5-feet, 10-inches and has a long wingspan, much like her mother (5-foot-10) and father (6-foot-7).

But sometimes there are things you can't teach, either.

"Every good athletes has something unique to them," Jason said. "Adam Nelson, he had that unique technique that was his own. Tom Walsh, etc. They all had good things. I remember watching her play around with the discus. I was still competing when I was 40. And she could throw a 2 kilogram discus when she was 9." 

Jason has taken up her coaching from the very beginning, transitioning from basic stances to more nuanced spins. 

"Her lifting, her throwing, it's just a matter of, I'm the best there is at it," Jason said of his reasoning for coaching. "Everything you can imagine, I've seen every idea as far as techniques go. I coached Jordan Young (who competed for the University of Virginia) for seven years in high school. I know it backwards and forwards."

Perhaps the only inconvenience at this point has been that of the usual teenage relationship between father and daugther. 

"Sometimes it's difficult because I get annoyed sometimes," Julia said, "because I don't like to listen. He's my dad. So it's different. It's hard sometimes." 

But for what it's worth, Julia says she's really starting to develop a love for the discus. She's starting ot understand the personal fulfillment that comes with controlling your own fate in the circle. She's already picking up on small adjustments that could make her better. 

She's also training with multiple versions of the discus, including the 1, 1.2, 1.5 and 2 kilogram implements. They may even add the .75 to "try and get that last 2-3 percent." 

"(The spin) is more comfortable now than it used to be," she said. "I have to have make sure I get around the back and load my left leg instead of falling and pushing off the back. That's what I have to work on." 

Her goals? 

While the Canadian high school record is 52.40 meters (171-11), according to Jason, Julia may find that it may be too short-sighted. Her father believes that by the time she's 18 she can approach 60 meters, which equates to roughly 196 feet, 10 inches. For perspective, the United States high school girls national record is 198-9.

So now is as good a time as ever to train for the future, even if there are no competitions to work toward. 

"I basically just think of when we are going to have actual meets," Julia said. "I keep training for those and the big things that will happen. What keeps me motivated is getting better and going to the track." 

Looking ahead to next year, few meets offer much competition for such a talented thrower in Canada. But if Julia, who turns 14 in July, hits certain benchmarks, her father might venture outside Canada. One west coast meet, he says, could be the Mt. SAC Invitational next spring. 

But first, Julia needs to remained focused. It's about improving on all the little things. 

"She has the potential to break the high school national record," Jason said. "Beyond that, I think she truly has the potential to be an international thrower." 

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