by Marc Yanofsky
During her freshman year, current track and field captain junior Julianna “Pani” Napoleon decided to join track and field, immediately finding success in shot put and discus, receiving various recognitions as well as placing in district league finals.
“All of the girls look up to her because of her athletic gifts, she is probably one of the best athletes at the school. She is very into working out, and leading girls by example. A lot of the boys look up her as well,” throwing coach Phillip “PJ” Castro said. “The girls look at her and aspire to do some of the things that she does, it’s good to have her there because it keeps the girls focused on what they can accomplish if they work hard.”
Napoleon’s athletic career is mostly focused on volleyball where she expects to receive a scholarship. However, she recently gained interest in track and field.
“Track is definitely a different mentality than volleyball, I’m much more relaxed so I really love that. It makes everything more fun,” Napoleon said.
Despite moving to Cathedral and taking a break from track and field her sophomore year, now that she’s back at Bonita Vista, Napoleon is expected to do well this season in various events.
“I expect to make it to CIF, possibly get an award for shot put, and I want to get my personal record (PR) in the 100 meter dash,” Napoleon said.
Napoleon set her personal record at 32 feet for shot put her freshman year at the Elmer Runge Classic; she placed third against students from schools around the county. Still, Napoleon’s coaches and peers expect her to surpass her record.
“[During] her freshman year, she was our thrower of the year, so that’s a big deal. She placed in league her freshman year for shotput and discus which is pretty good for a freshman. I expect the same thing from her this year. I expect her to win league in shot put and discus this year,” Castro said.
Napoleon is more than just an athlete according to her peers, she is also seen as a motivational leader on the track team. Despite doing it for fun, Napoleon is always working out and looking to improve.
“Pani is my competition so she’s what motivates me to do better, she really motivates a lot of people. I feel like Pani is the one everyone wants to be,” sophomore track and field co-captain Beyonce Segobia said. “She’s naturally good at it, even her worst throw is better than some people’s best.”
In addition to being an inspiration to other athletes, Napoleon also serves as an example for her coaches. Castro described her as “the first of her kind he’s coached” and “freakishly strong for a 16 year old girl.” Napoleon is constantly pushed by her coaches to improve, but she too pushes her coaches to think outside the box.
“She should be up there with the best in the county and she could probably get [a scholarship], but her sport is volleyball. I know she will get a scholarship for volleyball,” jump coach Joseph Sheffield said.
Napoleon is seen as one of the best athletes in the school by her coaches and is expected to continue her athletic career through college.
“She is very humble for how talented she is, [sometimes] when you are that age, that good, and people always tell you how good you are, it tends to go to your head. She is the opposite, she doesn’t like to believe the hype in herself. She keeps her worth ethic above everyone else’s to make sure that the praise that she gets isn’t false,” Castro said.