UA Standout Shot-Putter Is Making Her Mark Worldwide
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 07:17China, Canada, South Korea, Poland, Czech Republic, Trinidad, India, Tobago, the list of countries goes on for University of Arizona track and field standout Julie Labonté.
"I've been to a lot. I don't count them," she laughed.
The sophomore from Sainte-Justine, Québec has been all around the world competing at the highest level trying to be the best she can be as a thrower.
Just six years ago, Labonté decided to try shot put and discus after competing in nearly every other sport she could in high school. With the help of her father, Daniel, who competed in the javelin and high jump while in high school, and her high school gym in Sainte-Justine, Québec – a small town, which Labonté says covers about 2,000 people – and UA throws coach Craig Carter, Labonté has made a name for herself.
"We were just trying different things in high school, like running, jumping and throwing and I was really strong when I was young," Labonté said. "I did baseball, basketball, volleyball. I did a lot of sports, hockey too. Then I was like, 'maybe I should try shot put or discus,' and then I tried that. In my first meet I didn't do very well, but after that I was progressing."
After traveling across the country to the UA, in her second year in the Old Pueblo, Labonté has broken several records at the collegiate level and for Canada. But, before her freshman jump career started, Labonté attended Polyvalente des Appalaches in Sainte-Justine, Québec. She had to choose between coming to the UA or UNC Charlotte, both in the U.S., a country in which she had been to before.
"I did some meets in high school in Boston and New York and I really liked the NCAA program, so I was like, 'maybe I should visit some universities,'" Labonté said. "So I visited the UofA and North Carolina Charlotte and I was like, 'oh the program at the UofA is really good. 'I think I might choose the UofA.' Now I'm here and I don't regret my choice."
Ever since Labonté, who speaks French and English, came for her visit she said she has fit in. Perhaps, helping her become the All-American that she is.
"When I did my visit Gabriella (Duclos) from Québec, a pole-vaulter, was here but then she left the year I came here," Labonté said. "When I got here they were really close to me, so I wasn't like the 'French girl alone in the corner, that doesn't say anything to anyone.' They were all with me and talking to me. It was a major change but it was easy to talk to everyone and be a part of the Wildcat family."
With the help of teammates and guidance from her father and coach Carter, Labonté has propelled her way into the record books, in just two years as a Wildcat.
Last season as a freshman, according to the Arizona Wildcats website, she finished right outside the top 10 with 12th place in the NCAA Indoor Championships, while clinching a fourth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
This season she is undefeated, including an NCAA Indoor title under her belt with a throw of 17.53, improving her mark of 16.43 from last season.
Along with breaking Arizona records, Labonté has broken the Canadian National Indoor record, not once, but four times.
"The first meet I broke it was in August," Labonté said. "It was our first meet in Arkansas. Then I broke it three times indoor. My best mark was 17.60."
"In 2007 I went to the World Youth Championships in Czech Republic," Labonté said. "In 2008 I went to the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 2008, I represented Canada in the Youth Commonwealth games in India. Then I did two Junior Pan-American games in Trinidad and Tobago two years ago."
Labonté said the two that standout most to her are the 2008 Youth Commonwealth games in India and in 2007 when she made the finals in Czech Republic at the World Youth Championships.
But there's still more the sophomore wants to accomplish.
"I want to break the Canadian outdoor record, its 17.83," Labonté said. "I want to be closer to 18 meters. Next year, I have to be at least 18.30, so I want to be close to that mark to have a good chance to compete at the Olympics in 2012."
Last weekend, in the first outdoor meet of the season in Tucson, Ariz., Labonté launched a 17.65 throw, already improving her outdoor record last season of 16.83.
"You throw, but then you know it makes you feel better inside," Labonté said. "You're breaking records, and you got first in many meets. It makes you feel better and helps you progress for the next meet."
Out of the many countries Labonté has been to and competed in, there are a couple that stick out in her mind.
"I really liked India because it's really different and I love Europe," Labonté said. "After college I have no idea where I'm going to live, maybe Europe, maybe the U.S., maybe I'll go back to Canada. I have no idea."
But for now the sophomore will keep working hard, no matter what country she is in.
"I want to go to Greece for sure and I want to go everywhere," Labonté added. "This summer I will probably do the World Championships in China. Then maybe go to Canada, then maybe the World Championships in Korea."
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