The Day's All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: East Lyme's Julia Bates
In track and field, relays often present a certain excitement, a vibe all their own. A team can gain momentum with the two relays at the beginning of the meet or it can win a meet based on the relay at the end.
East Lyme High School had all of those situations play out this season; the Vikings boast all four relay teams on The Day's All-Area Team.
One of the biggest contributors to those successes, senior Julia Bates, was named The Day's 2019 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
"We felt like the relay teams had an excellent chance," East Lyme coach Carl Reichard said. "She would have done extremely well as an individual, but the relay teams would ultimately be even better. We said, 'Hey, I think this is going to work out best for us.' She said, 'Yeah, I'm all in. Whatever you think is best.' Team all the way."
And so the Vikings' postseason was a timeline of relay highlights.
Starting at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship meet at the Coast Guard Academy, the score was tied against rival Norwich Free Academy headed into the 4x360-meter relay, which serves as the last event on the track.
It was East Lyme's team of Saige Deveau, Ellie McCoy, Bates and anchor Sophie Taylor which won the event in 4 minutes, 19.51 seconds, leading the Vikings, who swept the relay events, to a 146-142 victory over NFA.
East Lyme, with Bates anchoring both, then won the 4x800 (9:52.77) and the sprint medley relay (4:23.56) at the Class L state championship at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, with Taylor and Bates making up enough ground to vault the Vikings to a considerable comeback in the 4x800.
Gilly Goodwin, Laura Agbayani, Taylor and Bates made up the 4x800 team, while Deveau, Nancy Alden and Katherine Harris joined Bates for the sprint medley relay win.
Those same four runners tacked on a State Open championship in the sprint medley relay, whittling their time to 4:17.61, and went on to finish 13th in that event in the emerging elite division at the New Balance Nationals in New York City in 4:14.24, with Bates running the 800-meter leg that concludes the race. The 4x800 team, meanwhile, was fourth in the State Open.
Bates competed in the 1,000 meters as an individual at the ECC meet, finishing second, before committing the remainder of her season to running with a baton.
"I think the girls I ran it with," Bates said of what made the relays such a joy in which to partake. "It stinks because you're sitting there waiting in anticipation (to run your leg), but in a way it helps me run harder seeing how hard everyone else worked.
"It's so much fun not just running for yourself. It makes it easy to run for other people."
Now might be a good time to mention that Bates is not a runner by nature.
She also plays midfield for the field hockey and lacrosse teams at East Lyme — Bates has been part of a combined 10 ECC regular-season and tournament titles thus far in her career as a three-sport athlete — and will join the lacrosse team beginning next season at Division III Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Bates finished last season with 46 points for the Vikings in lacrosse.
She said she initially joined indoor track to keep in shape for lacrosse, a sport she grew up watching brothers Andy and Tim play before the family moved to East Lyme from Colchester prior to Bates' freshman year.
"I don't know how it would work if I ran all three seasons," she said with a laugh. "Sometimes it's hard to just go out and run just to run."
But when asked what her greatest asset as a lacrosse player is, Bates said, "I think the fact that I ran track in the winter, especially playing midfield ... just to be able to outrun people."
Bates is certainly proficient at that.
Reichard, who said he's "thrilled" to coach her, even for just one season per year, said that whatever place the Vikings end up in with Bates running, he knows that's the highest achievable spot.
"Never quit, that's her thing," Reichard said. "There's a lot of fire inside there. She's a competitive and determined person. She doesn't wear it on her sleeve, but if you coach or you watch her in a meet, you'll see that competitive fire but in a positive way."
But it's also her unselfish nature — "she's thinking about those other people," Reichard said of her relay motivation — which stands out, in addition to her talent.
Said Reichard: "She is one of the best leaders that I've ever coached. She's just fantastic with the other kids. It's just a natural thing. They look to her. She understands what we're trying to do. As a coach, she's a kid you love to have."
The Day's 2019 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Team
Player of the Year — Julia Bates (East Lyme)
55 meters — Saige Deveau (East Lyme)
300, 1,000 — Kayla Park (NFA)
600 — Emma Grace Ricketts (NFA)
1,600 — Lindsey Orr (Stonington)
3,200 — Mady Whittaker (Montville)
55 hurdles, long jump — Lauren Ross (Montville)
4x200 relay — East Lyme (Darya Mikusova, Nancy Alden, Margaret Dunne, Katherine Harris)
4x400 relay — East Lyme (Saige Deveau, Sophie Taylor, Katherine Harris, Julia Bates)
4x800 relay — East Lyme (Gilly Goodwin, Laura Agbayani, Sophie Taylor, Julia Bates)
Sprint medley relay — East Lyme (Saige Deveau, Nancy Alden, Katherine Harris, Julia Bates)
High jump — Allyson Lewis (NFA)
Pole vault — Paige Martin (NFA)
Shot put — Eliza Brown (New London)
Utility — Madison Martin (NFA)