Monday, March 29, 2021

Congratulations Julia

If an inch is 2.54 centimeters, then 15 centimeters is just short of six inches, or less than half a foot.

Why is that important?

TigerBlog will get to that in a moment. 

Meanwhile, of all of the great stats that TigerBlog has stumbled across in all of his years at Princeton, there is one that eclipses them all.

It's the stat of stats, as it were.

It's not even Bill Bradley related, if you can believe that. Of all the amazing Bill Bradley stats, by the way, the most amazing is that his career LOW was 15. Talk about never having an off night.

Even beyond that, Bradley played 83 games in his Princeton career. In how many of those games did he score fewer than 20? 

How about four times? He had that 15 point game (against Harvard in 1963), an 18-point game against Penn in 1964 and then a pair of 19-point games (against Dartmouth and Penn) in 1965. 

In the other game against those teams those seasons, Bradley averaged 33.3.

Anyway, to outdo Bradley in Princeton history is not easy. And yet, for TB's money, Julia Ratcliffe did just that.

In her Princeton career, Julia Ratcliffe threw the hammer 134 times. She holds the 134 best throws in Ivy League history.

Think about that. Every single one of her throws, even her worst, was still better than any other throw in Ivy history.

That's incredible.

Ratcliffe won the NCAA championship - Princeton's only women's NCAA individual track and field champion - in the hammer throw in 2014 as a sophomore and was the runner-up the following year. She took 2016 off to train for the Olympics, and she came back in 2017 to be a first-team All-American again.

She came really, really close to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. A native of New Zealand, she won her country's Olympic Trials - but she was a few centimeters short of the Olympic standard of 72.50 meters (her Princeton record is 70.28 meters). The aforementioned 15 centimeters, to be exact.

That was rough.

To qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Ratcliffe needed to better that same 72.50 meters, something she'd never yet done in her career. She finally broke through Friday at the New Zealand championships. 

In fact she threw 73.40 in her first throw of the event, which put her on the plane for Japan. That throw was more than a meter better than her previous personal best.

It also wasn't her best throw of the competition. With the Olympic standard done, Ratcliffe then set the Oceania record with a throw of 73.55.

It was quite a performance for Ratcliffe, who won the New Zealand championship for the sixth time. 

Ratcliffe started out as a field hockey player in New Zealand. Her first event in track and field was actually the hurdles, an event she says she was good at until "the sprinters learned how to hurdle and it came crashing down."

When she was 12, her father Dave (a high school PE teacher and track and field coach) bought her a hammer. He's been her coach since. 

She arrived at Princeton for her freshman year having never seen the campus in person before. She thought Dillon Gym was a castle. 

She had a great career at Princeton, winning every academic honor there was in addition to her dominance in her event, which included four outdoor Heps titles.  

And now she'll be representing Princeton in the Olympic Games. She'll be the fourth Princeton woman to compete in the Olympics in track and field, following Lynn Jennings (three-time Olympian and 1992 bronze medalist in the 10,000), Deborah Saint-Phard (shot putter) and Katie McCandless (5,000 meters).

When TB spoke to Ratcliffe before the New Zealand championships, she was looking forward to her chance at the New Zealand meet to reach 72.50. She had to have 72.35 floating around in her head somewhere, probably for the last nearly five years now.

Fortunately, she no longer has to worry about that. 

Even if she gave up on the event years ago, she managed to get over her toughest hurdle - and did so in style.

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