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Pata making a name for herself in track & field
CHS junior sets meet record at Modesto JC
Ceres High junior Julia Pata brought home a first-place medal from the Modesto Junior College Invitatonal. She finished first in the shot put. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Junior Julia Pata is competing in two sports for Ceres High School this spring.

A star swimmer at the varsity level since the ninth grade, Pata has found success with the Bulldogs' girls track and field team.

The first-year thrower shocked just about everybody in attendance when she uncorked a throw of 39 feet, two inches to win the shot put at the Modesto Junior College Invitational on Saturday.

Pata obliterated the old meet record of 35-7, which was set in 2011.

Julia competed in the first flight.

"It's pretty amazing," Ceres High head coach Brett Johnson said. "The coolest thing is she is such a humble, sweet person. She volunteered to pick up and roll back shot puts for the second flight."

Added Pata: "I was really surprised. Before that meet, I was throwing four feet less."

Julia's previous-best throw of 35-6 was set during her second-place finish at Western Athletic Conference rival Livingston on March 23.

Pata posted a qualifying mark for the Sacramento Meet of Champions day competition, to be staged on April 30.

"You see improvement in the throws but more so in the discus," Johnson said. "It shows what kind of athlete she is. She's a very strong girl. She's so talented. She's extremely coachable, too."

"You can tell when you have a good throw," Pata said. "It feels different. It's smooth."

Pata decided to join Ceres High's track and field team after being recruited by her P.E. instructor.

"She's in Brandon Moring's weight training class," Johnson stated. "He kept talking to her. She said she'd finally do it."

It hasn't taken Julia long to make a name for herself in another sport.

Pata had the 35th-best throw in the shot put in the state as of Sunday.

She ranked fifth in the Sac-Joaquin Section and first in Division IV-V.

She's already matched Livingston senior/three-time Masters participant Tina Lao's season-best mark.

"There's a little added pressure now," Pata said. "You always want to add distance to your mark. But you don't feel stressed out because everyone is supportive. My teammates and coaches have helped me along the way. They've taught me everything I need to know."

Julia has the potential to develop into an elite thrower.

She's been relying on just raw strength and athleticism.

Pata's working on refining her technique with assistance from coaches.

"I never met Julia before she came out for the team," Johnson said. "I knew of her through swimming. She's pretty special. She's two feet away from being in the top 10 in the state with limited experience. I could easily see her getting up in the mid-40s and being a state placer if she gets comfortable and stronger. She'll shock a lot of people by the end of the season."

Pata originally planned to swim at the next level.

A dual-sport standout, Pata will most likely be recruited to compete in track and field as well.

"I'm hoping that I'll be in the 40s in the shot put by the end of the season," Julia said. "I want to place first in the WAC. That's my biggest goal."