No matter what’s going on in Juliette Keller’s life, she knows she can solve problems by running.
The simple act of lacing up the shoes and heading to the track or even the sidewalks of her neighborhood seems to help take care of anything on her mind.
“I just love it, because it’s so liberating,” the Medina junior said. “I just love the feeling. I love everything about running.
“When I run, I always try to turn any negatives into positives, which helps me push forward.”
Keller has used that passion to become one of the top runners in the area, evident in three All-Ohio medals that were enough for her to garner Gazette MVP for girls track and field.
“That’s the amazing part to me: She just loves to run,” Bees coach Scott VanFleet said. “More so run with competition — she’s never shied away from any of that. You can see her racing earlier in the year. She tried to do the same thing every time, then she finally got it.
“When she finished the mile (at the Amherst Division I Regional), she was like, ‘Wow, that was really fun.’”
Keller had a lot of fun in the closing month of the season.
The 5-foot-3 standout showed in the postseason she’s more than a distance runner, as Keller completed an 800-meter run and a 400 before coming back two days later to run a 1,600 and another 400.
Keller was the Brunswick District and Amherst Regional champion in the 1,600 before placing fifth at state. She also ran on the 4x800 relay that broke the school record in a fifth-place effort and closed the weekend as a leg on the 4x4 relay that had reached Columbus in a program-record time.
“I never really imagined that I would be this fast,” the 17-year-old said. “I’m not going to lie. My first two-mile I ran (as a seventh-grader) was a 13:33, and I thought that was so good and it really wasn’t that good. It was a good feeling to me, though, and I just kept getting faster and faster. I never thought I would be in this position ever.”
Keller’s fifth-place finish in the 1,600 was her third straight podium appearance in the event, bettering on a seventh and sixth. She also reached the podium for the first time in the 4x8.
Most impressive, through, was Keller’s ability to flat-out race.
Her 4x8 anchor leg at state was one of the best splits of her career, helping the Bees to a program-best 9:04 before turning around with an impressive 4x4 leg.
Along the postseason trail, Keller also picked up victories in the 1,600 over longtime area rival Kaylie Kenne of Highland, using everything she had in the final 100 of districts and regionals to pull off wins. The regional performance came in a career-low 4:54.07.
“Talk about a big-meet performer,” VanFleet said. “The way she anchored that 4x8 at the state meet and coming in and switching right back to the 400 and giving us great splits in that, it was really phenomenal.
“I think she’s kind of taken that next step and become more confident in what her abilities are. She’s actually mentioned to us that she’s finally figuring out this racing stuff.”
The sport has been something she has always wanted to do. Watching older sister and 2016 Medina graduate Aliah Keller pick it up in middle school made Juliette want to do the same thing.
Whether the event is one lap or eight, she loves running.
“I just like trying everything,” Keller said. “It doesn’t matter what event. As long as I’m running, I like doing it.
“What I really liked was that, with each year that has gone by, I have improved. My goal this year was to just keep pushing and raising the bar for myself.”
While Keller might be ready to specialize in the 3,200, she knows that’s still in the distant future.
Until then, she has her eyes set on the 1,600 school record of 4:50.94 set by Anna Boyert in 2012.
“I think that each year as you progress, it helps you grow mentally stronger and you get faster and faster,” Keller said. “In the mile, I’m hoping to run in the 4:40s, and I’m hoping to get my 400 down to 56-57 and break 2:10 in the 800. I just enjoy it all.”
- Coach Scott VanFleet keeps steady hand in Medina girls' record-setting season
- Highland's Kayle Kenne saves best for last with second-place finish at state meet
- Brunswick discus thrower Tomas Rimac earns first trip to state meet
- Regardless of regional outcome, Medina's Carmela Henning is already a winner
- Highland girls' relay advances to regionals
- Distance crew, depth star at home relays for Medina