Babinec The Brightest Star for Women’s Indoor
The North Central Women’s Indoor Track and Field team was as star-studded as ever this winter, and one of the brightest stars was Julia Babinec, who won a national championship in the 60 meter hurdles by three one-thousands of a second to cap an excellent season for the Cardinals and career for her.
“It was really exciting but also probably the most nerve-wracking thing,” said Babinec. “It was really close between three of us so I could have gotten first, second or third we had no idea. So it was very scary but exciting. I think being a national champion, the title in itself goes back to all the work I put in throughout the year. It’s really nice to have, I guess, something to show for it that people recognize. But to me, it really just means that all this hard work that I put in throughout the summer, and throughout the fall, and throughout the spring has really built up to allow me to have that opportunity.”
Conference and National Success
Babinec was one of four Cardinals to qualify for Nationals, joined by sophomore Denise Partee in the 60 meter hurdles along with senior Kathy Myrda and freshman Natalie Johnson in pole vault, junior Lindsey Novak in the 200 m dash, and Alexandra Draves in the 20 pound weight throw.
The strong contingent at nationals followed North Central winning their third straight CCIW Conference Championship with 1st place finishes for Babinec and Draves, as well as senior Marcedes Jackson in the 100 meters and the Distance Medley Relay team. The Cardinals didn’t seal the title over second place Elmhurst until the final event, in which a second place finish in the 4×400 meter relay sealed the deal.
“I think as the meet went on, we knew we had a great first day but I told them ‘we need to have a great first day’ in order to put ourselves in that position,” said head coach Kari Kluckhohn. “And all year long I’ve told them it’s not going to be a cake walk, it’s gonna be a battle.”
“It’s great honestly, considering that the first time was definitely a little rough considering COVID and everything,” Draves said. “So that was great to come back from and to keep on excelling in a way like that and then in the end have the good old outcome that I was hoping for.”
“It’s been really amazing, and it’s not necessarily an expectation that we have but we know we can do this and we know how to do it,” Babinec said. “Working together as a team, we know what we’re capable of and growing close to each other is part of that, and being behind each other while we’re all excelling at our individual goals is really how we get there.”
“So it’s one thing to be focusing on a conference championship, but if you keep focusing on the smaller steps along the way, that’s been able to help us really thrive during these challenging years,” said Kluckhohn. “They’re having that collective sense of purpose, wanting to see their teammates get better. Being thankful for practices every day but also having those opportunities to compete, they’ve taken advantage of every championship they’ve had.”
Four Years of Growth and Achievement
Babinec and Draves have come a long way over the last four years to reach this peak during their senior years, and are part of a graduating class that the program will certainly miss with all they’ve accomplished. With only the outdoor season left to go, they’re at a point where they can look back over the journeys they’ve taken to this point and appreciate all the work they’ve done and memories they’ve made.
“It’s been great,” Draves said. “To come in and see what how they had already excelled in previous years that was a boost of confidence. And then when I came here and met my new teammates they were all welcoming. Everyone was so excited to have me on the team and from there we kept on building what was already there and kept on building upon it every single year.”
“So exciting,” Kluckhohn said of what it means to see the senior class, but Babinec and Draves in particular, go out on such a high note. “I go back to neither of those two were all-state athletes in high school. They’ve built themselves and trusted their coaches to get them to where they are, and put in the time to get where they are. They’re great role models for our team because they’re not the state champion. They show what hard work and consistency will do for you, and to endure missing multiple opportunities at the national meet and conference championships, they’ve really done everything they needed to do to maximize their senior year.”