Making the transition from high school to college is usually exciting for recent high school graduates. Even more so when that graduate is headed to fulfill a dream of playing a Division 1 sport.
Marion High School graduate Julia Zeiner is ready to undergo the transition from the 3A high school to Kansas State University, where she will compete in track and field and major in kinesiology.
Leaving for Manhattan in mid-August, Zeiner completed a high school three-sport career in which she established herself as the most decorated Warrior athlete in recent memory.
During the last four years in the gym and on the track, Zeiner excelled in basketball and volleyball and medaled multiple times in the state track meet, beginning her freshman year.
Zeiner caught the attention of college track coaches by earning a total of 15 career 3A medals at state, five gold.
Winning her first gold medal as a member of the Marion 4×100 relay team in her sophomore season (2008), she followed with a pair of gold medals her junior year (2009) in the long jump and triple jump. Zeiner then defended her long jump title and won the 100 meter hurdles in her senior year (2010).
The two-time 3A long jump champion saw success in the event at a young age.
?In middle school we had to pick an event and I wanted to do long jump,? Zeiner said. ?It became my favorite event because I was the best at it.?
A raw talent, Zeiner learned to perfect her technique over the years, with the help of coaching.
?Our coaches taught us the technique and the run up and everything, but I think a lot of it was just the talent I had at first,? she said.
?Later in high school I had to work at it more.?
As a sophomore, Zeiner began to train for the triple jump. In the two following seasons, she won a gold in 2009 and a silver in 2010 at 3A state.
Showing her versatility, Zeiner also competed in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles. The 300 hurdles was new to her in 2010. She competed off and on in the 100 hurdles since her freshman year.
Despite not having the experience of some of the other hurdlers, Zeiner won gold in the 100 and placed second in the 300 in 2010.
?I was really hoping for a gold,? Zeiner said about the 100 hurdles. ?The past two years I had a silver in that.?
Because of her prowess in track and field, Zeiner has received some attention from regional media outlets.
The Hutchinson News named Zeiner as the Female Athlete of the Year. Past winners include Claflin basketball legend Jackie Stiles and K-State volleyball player and Hillsboro graduate Julie Ann Chisholm.
The Wichita Eagle also dubbed Zeiner as ?the best track star from Marion ever.?
Like most athletes at the high school level, Zeiner participated in the fall and the winter as well.
She was a four-year starter for the Marion volleyball and basketball teams. She was a standout player in the basketball Warriors? run to a state second place finish in 2010.
?We began playing in sixth grade, all of us girls together,? Zeiner said. ?It was always fun when basketball came around because we were together.?
Playing a combination of post and wing later in her high school career, Zeiner started playing on the perimeter.
?I was a guard, sometimes point guard,? she said. ?Freshman year, I got a growth spurt. So he (former Marion coach Daryl Enos) had me at guard some and inside. Sophomore year I started being more inside.?
Zeiner wasn?t thrilled, at first, with the transition to the post, but now appreciates the finer points of playing on the block.
?At first I really didn?t want to be a post at all, I wanted to play outside? she said. ?But now I like them both. I learned to like playing inside and owning the paint.?
The addition to her game as a youngster helped her develop into one of the state?s premier players. In 2010 she was named third team all-class, all-state and first team 3A all-state.
In 2009, she was named honorable mention all-state and second team all-area.
She also finished her career a three-time first-team all-Mid Central Activities Association selection and played as an all-star on the MCAA squad in the Heart of America vs. MCAA all-star basketball classic in 2010.
In volleyball, which Zeiner described ?not her strongest sport,? the three-sport star was a two-time, first team all-MCAA selection and was named second team all-MCAA in her sophomore season.
Competing at a high level in multiple sports, Zeiner will have to adjust to concentrating on track only when she gets to Manhattan.
?Just one sport is going to be weird getting used to it,? she said.
?I think when I get there just practicing with the track team, I?ll start to forget about the three sports and just focus on one. It?ll be OK.?
The biggest adjustment for Zeiner will be the length and intensity of the workouts. She hasn?t trained with the Wildcat track team yet, but has had a taste of what?s to come from going through warmups this summer.
?The warmups are so much longer,? she said. ?They?re basically a work out themselves.?
Zeiner will report to K-State in mid-August and will begin practicing immediately.
The winter indoor season begins in December and runs through March. The outdoor season begins immediately after.
Even though the start of school is rapidly approaching, Zeiner said reality hasn?t quite set in.
?It?s still pretty surreal that that?s what I?m going to be doing.?