#TGW: Jul(ienne) of the South

June 28, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Over the last four years Julienne McKee not only has been one of the best triple- and long jumpers in the ACC, but in the southern United States and the entire nation.

Her ACC and national honors and appearances in the NCAA Championships (indoors and outdoors) and, most recently, the USATF Outdoor Championships leave no doubt about that.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA), which voted her Indoor First Team All-America and Outdoor Honorable Mention All-America the last two years, had no doubt about that.

Her coach, Nat Page, who knows these things, had no doubt about that.

About the only person who DID have doubts about her place amongst the elite is McKee herself.

“I guess I do get nervous against other girls that are better than me but it’s nice to be on the same platform as them,” said McKee prior to the USATF Outdoors. “My coach tells me all the time that I just need to go out and think that I am just as good as any other girl. I have a hard time with the whole confidence thing but each year it gets more ingrained so I think that of myself more.”

McKee showed she belonged on Thursday, by making her first appearance at the USATF Outdoors. Her participation capped off a career that also saw her make trips to the NCAA Outdoor Championships all four years on The Flats.

She saw the meet was an opportunity for redemption following the end of her season that was not up to her standard.

“I didn’t think I was going to qualify for this meet. So it wasn’t really on my mind to even go to this meet,” she said. “I’m really excited. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped or thought I was going to do at Nationals so I’m glad I get another chance to actually go out and compete again and try again.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity that I can show that I am a good jumper,” she added. “I just wanted to make Georgia Tech proud and I really want to go out with a bang with this meet.”

At the Outdoors, held in Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., on the campus of Sacramento State University, McKee had a long of 12.89 meters (42’3 ½”), to finish 12th. She had been as high as ninth. It wasn’t a personal record (P.R.) — she did that at the NCAA East Regionals back in March with a jump of 13.25 meters (43’5 ¾”), a jump that qualified her for the meet — but just getting to perform with the best in the United States and the world was reason enough to be proud.

“It is a very nice way to end [my career],” she said. “I would have been more hurt if I didn’t go to Nationals, if I didn’t P.R. in my last year. So I’m very proud of what I’ve done these past couple of weeks.”

The pride of her strong finish and the thrill of competing in the USATF Outdoors were dampened some by the reality that her career at Georgia Tech was coming to an end.

“It’s very bittersweet,” she said. “In my mind I still feel like I’m going to come back to school next year instead of working in a month. It’s sad in a way but I’m really happy and I can’t be any more grateful for these last four years, especially with Coach Page. Getting to this point in my career, my triple-jump and long jump career, I can’t be any more grateful.”

McKee, who graduated in May with a degree in Business Management, has taken steps down the runway of the rest of her life, as she’ll be working in the Alpharetta offices of a national technology company called Bottomline Technologies. But she hasn’t necessarily closed the door on continuing her training in a push for the 2016 Olympics.

“I’ve thought about it,” she said. “I really don’t know if I want to pursue the whole going on the open circuit just because I do have work lined up. It’s going to be a time commitment so I really don’t know. I would like to stay in shape because if I do decide to go on the open circuit I don’t want to go through the whole thing of getting back in shape. So I don’t know. It’s all up in the air right now.”

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