East Lyme's Folz ready to clear all hurdles

East Lyme - Gianna Folz is the Back Page Editor of the East Lyme High School newspaper, The Viking Saga, writing a short opinion piece for each edition.

One of Folz's topics in the past: how track meets are terrifying to her.

"I get jumpy. I get so scared," said Folz, a senior co-captain on East Lyme's girls' indoor track team. "It definitely makes me get jumpy and pumped up. To calm myself down, I picture myself hurdling in my head."

Folz's coping mechanisms apparently work.

She's the top seed in two events heading into Saturday's Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division championship meet at the Coast Guard Academy, at which East Lyme will try to defend last year's team title.

Folz is the No. 1 seed in the 55-meter hurdles, setting a personal best this season in 8.66 seconds, not far off the school record of 8.59 set in 2007 by Angela Anton. Folz is also ranked first in the long jump with a leap of 17 feet and is among the favorites in the high jump along with Fitch's Sydnee Spruill.

The ECC Large Division meet for boys and girls will begin at 10 a.m., with the Small Division meet to follow at 4 p.m.

"I started hurdling as a freshman. My dad (Keith) worked with me when I was little, just jumping over pillows and stuff," Folz said. "He was a hurdler in Wisconsin the fastest in the state. My first time I fell before I got to the first hurdle. After my freshman year, I got good."

Folz won the ECC Large meet in 2013 as a sophomore, finishing in 9.11.

Last year, however, she was joined in the division by Ledyard senior Chenoa Sebastian, the eventual State Open champion in the event who would go on to earn a Division I scholarship to hurdle at St. John's University. Sebastian won the ECC in 8.91 seconds with Folz coming in second in 9.07.

Folz went on to finish third in the Class L meet (9.12).

Folz said running against Sebastian made her a better competitor.

"She just pushed me to go as fast as I could," Folz said. "I always PRed when I was next to her."

This, however, has been Folz's turn for a breakout season.

She went under 9.0 for the first time this season in a conference-wide developmental meet at the Coast Guard, Jan. 3, running an 8.94. She hasn't been above the 9.0 mark since.

She ran 8.82 to win the event at the Snowflake Invitational at Wesleyan on Jan. 6, won the hurdles at the Rhody Classic on Jan. 10 (8.79) and set her personal-best 8.66 in the preliminary round at the East Coast Invitational in Providence on Jan. 16, eventually finishing second to Mimi Liebers of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., by one-hundredth of a second.

East Lyme coach Carl Reichard said it's been Folz's commitment in the weight room which has helped her become consistently faster.

"She was just under 9.0 last year; that's a big improvement at her level," Reichard said from a recent practice. "She got a lot stronger. She has more endurance during the meets. By the time you do six or seven high jumps, six or seven long jumps and two rounds of hurdles, you've had a busy day."

Folz, who will compete in track at Ithaca College beginning next year, plans to major in journalism. She also hopes to partake in the state heptatathlon in the spring, something for which she will need to add a few events to her repertoire, such as the shot put and 800 meters.

Now, Folz, just 5-foot-6, becomes Sebastian's heir apparent in the hurdles, which has interestingly become one of the league's marquee events, with Sebastian and former Fitch boys' star Tyler Latham each hurdling their way to State Open titles last season.

Folz, who always considered herself a hurdler even before she ever officially hurdled, said she never can tell if it's going to be her day on the track beforehand, the way some competitors can.

She just tries to keep her nerves in check and listens for the voice of her dad.

Said Folz: "He supports me a lot. He'll always say before my meet, 'run fast, run fast.'"

v.fulkerson@theday.com
Twitter: @vickieattheday

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