WPIAL Alum Q&A – Julie Kocjancic
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 | 9:33 PM
Very few high school track and field or cross-country athletes earn the opportunity to continue their athletic career at the college level. Julie Kocjancic, a former standout at Mount Lebanon High School, now excels at both sports at Penn State University. The junior runner is the focus of this week’s WPIAL Alum Q&A.
On the cross country side at Mount Lebanon, Kocjancic and the Blue Devils finished third in the Class AAA team standings in 2010, earning a trip to the PIAA championships. In the following campaign, Mount Lebanon finished second, while Kocjancic, a junior, posted the 11th-best mark for the classification. 2012 proved to be golden, though, as Kocjancic helped guide the Blue Devils to a dominant first-place finish in the WPIAL Class AAA Championship. Individually, she finished sixth overall, with a time of 19:42.
In track and field, Kocjancic earned a sixth-place finish in the Class AAA 800 meters in 2013. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils finished second in the team standings. She qualified for the state finals during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
After her graduation from Mount Lebanon, Kocjancic matriculated to Penn State University, joining both teams for the Nittany Lions. As a freshman in 2013, she competed in five cross-country events, highlighted by a ninth-place finish in her first ever race, at the Dolan Duals. The following year, she again finished highest at the Dolan Duals, coming in eighth, while also achieving 19th at the Penn State National.
This campaign, she ran in seven cross-country races, coming in fourth in the Dolan Duals by registering a 4K time of 14:33.5.
In track and field at Penn State, Kocjancic’s freshman campaign included first-place finishes in the 1500-meter run at both the Bison Outdoor Classic and the Jim Thorpe Open. As a sophomore in 2015, she posted an array of top-10 finishes, including second place in the 800 meters at the Jim Thorpe Open, and third in the 1,000 meters at the Nittany Lion Challenge.
This year, she has continued to add varying distances for her races, competing in the DMR, 4×8, 4×15, 800, 1000, 1500 and mile. As a junior, she has achieved career-best marks in many of those categories, including the 1,000 (2:50.67), 1,500 (4:24.79) and mile (4:42.90). Most recently, she finished 11th in the 1,500 in the Big Ten Conference Championships.
Julie took time from her busy running schedule to chat about the challenges of competing in multiple events, her fondest memories from Mount Lebanon, and her favorite flavor of ice cream at Penn State.
Q: You compete in both cross country, as well as track and field seasons for Penn State. What are the challenges of basically competing from the start of the fall into early summer?
A: The challenges of competing from the start of the fall into early summer are that I want to physically take care of my body through stretching, lifting and any other means to avoid injury, but staying engaged mentally from season to season and not letting myself get burnt out with competing and traveling so much
Q: You finished fourth in a cross-country event in September. What was key in achieving this finish, the best of your XC career at PSU?
A: A key factor in my success this season was setting goals for myself early and living the right lifestyle, so that I could make achieving them possible. The small things like diet and sleep ended up being the big things in determining my success.
Q: Other than actually running, what are your training methods for cross country?
A: Biking, plyometrics, hurdle drills and technique form work, lifting, listening to my body and cross training and getting treatment, when necessary.
Q: You compete often in 800 and 1,500 in track and field, but you have also mixed in several other races. What do you believe is your strongest event, and why?
A: I enjoy mixing in lots of different races and challenging myself, but getting to really train for the first time this year in the 1,500 was exciting and showed that I am stronger than I think, and I can branch out and am willing to train harder for more new events and distances
Q: You have consistently finished in the top 10 this track season, including three second-place results, as well as first in the 4×8. Do you believe you have elevated your performance as a junior, and if so, how?
A: This year, as a junior, was probably my strongest year in all seasons – cross country, indoor track and outdoor – and that is exciting to motivate me and give me momentum into my senior year.
Q: What are the challenges, if any, of transitioning from the indoor portion of the track season to outdoor?
A: We are blessed to have a beautiful indoor facility that allows us to compete at home a lot during the indoor season, so once the outdoor season starts, you need to be prepared to travel a lot more while still managing the same responsibilities with academics. Also, there are different events during the indoor season and outdoor, so it is a short turn around to get prepared for those.
Q:Although some of track and field is individually focused, do the Nittany Lions set any team goals for the season?
A: Each year, our team goals are always to improve on the past year’s performances, whether that means in our national rankings, within the Big Ten, or individual performances. We do this by holding each other accountable and being invested in each other’s performances, working hard together and training, and looking out for each other’s health and well being.
Q: What led to your decision to attend PSU?
A: My decision to attend PSU was influenced by the program, the academic standings, family, friends and also being closer to home. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier for making this decision and that it has becoming my home where I have made great friends and awesome memories, and State College has allowed me to really grow as a student and an athlete.
Q: What was your fondest memory from Mount Lebanon?
A: When I think of Pittsburgh and especially Mount Lebanon, I immediately smile reminiscing on the fun I had with friends and teammates, and am really grateful for the education and platform with sports it gave me. My fondest memory was being able to go uptown after school to hang out and get a bite to eat or taking the T with friends downtown to go ice skating or watch a Pirates or Pens game.
Q: You were a key contributor in both cross country and track and field for the Blue Devils. How were your teams, especially XC, able to achieve a high level of success?
A: Our success when I was competing for the Mount Lebanon Blue Devils could not have been possible without the mutual hard work, dedication, and respect the coaches and athletes had for one another. I genuinely felt that my cross country and track teammates weren’t just teammates, but my close friends, and when you enjoy what you’re doing and who you’re with, it makes it that must easier to do well.
Q: What is your major, and when did you realize that was the field of study you wanted to enter?
A: My major is Health Policy Administration. I declared this major in the middle of my sophomore year after taking a variety of classes and previously completing classes for my Kinesiology major. My college adviser and academic support staff knew what I wanted to do and introduced the major to me.
Q: What is your favorite movie or TV show?
A: My favorite movie is The Guardian and my favorite TV show is “New Girl”, “One Tree Hill” or “Gossip Girl”.
Q: Other than XC and track and field, do you enjoy playing or watching any sports?
A: Yes! I still miss playing lacrosse. I really enjoy playing other sports whenever people just want to get a pick up game of basketball going or get a group together to play volleyball. Being a Pittsburgh sports fan, I have realized at Penn State with the other majority of the students coming from Philly and New Jersey, it is not always easy to watch sports with other people.
Q: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream at the Creamery?
A: My favorite flavor at the Creamery, without a doubt, is coconut chip