A spectacular senior season was anticipated for Julia Fixsen, who was already established as one of Minnesota’s all-time best track-and-field athletes.
However, the Mounds View prodigy met huge setbacks both at the start of her senior year (an injury suffered in another sport) and near the end (a failure in her signature event, pole vault).
“It was heartbreaking to not be able to end my high school career on a high note,” acknowledged Fixsen.
The tall (5-11), marvelously-talented and laser-focused athlete still logged two state gold medals and one silver in pole vault in her career, along with the all-time state record, plus a silver and two bronze medals at state in her second-best event, high jump.
And she had a stellar senior season otherwise.
Her career will resume at one of the nation’s premier college track programs, the University or Georgia, as a pole vaulter, in which she placed second in a national meet a year ago, with her all-time best 13-11 1/4.
“I feel thankful for the relationships I have formed, and the experiences that will never be forgotten,” Fixsen said. “I feel like my high school years have prepared me well for my future as a D1 athlete.”
Fixsen lost seven months recovering from ankle injury suffered in volleyball, a sport she decided to try as a senior after concentrating on track-and-field previously.
“My best friend is the setter for Mounds View, and we were playing around last summer at the park,” Fixsen said. “She saw how high I could jump, and how hard I could hit, and talked me in to going out for the team.” The other girls and coaches pledged to be patient with Fixsen and teach her all she needed. She played eight games in a scrimmage and “fell in love with the feel of a clean block or hard kill.”
It would have been fun to watch how an athlete so renowned in another sport would have fared, even as a novice, as a volleyball hitter, for which she has the ideal physique, but it was not to be. A week before the season, Fixsen went up for a block in practice and landed on a teammate’s foot, resulting in a high ankle sprain and a partial torn ligament.
“It was a bad one. It took about seven months to be pain free and it still swells after meets,” Fixsen said, adding that the injury also set back her fall and winter training.
Fixsen got back just in time for the spring season, and was her usual dominant self, while dealing with some back and knee issues. She won the Hamline Elite Meet pole vault (13-3) and placed third in high jump (5-4). She led the Mustangs to the section true-team title by winning pole vault (13-0), long jump (17-4 1/2) and high jump (5-4) and placing second in 100 hurdles (15.74).
Fixsen rested at the conference meet, doing only pole vault, to be fresh for the regular section meet, where the coaches wanted her in four events again.
At section, she won long jump and took second in 100 hurdles and high jump, qualifying for state in all three. “Going into pole vault at the end of day two, I had accomplished the hardest part of the mission,” said Fixsen. “No one could’ve predicted the plan would fail in my last event, at a height I normally don’t have trouble with.”
Fixsen started at the 12-7 height — she normally starts at 13-0 —and failed in all three attempts. Minnesota’s all-time best pole vaulter, who competed for Team USA in the world meet at Finland last summer, didn’t make her final state meet. In her absence, a Cambridge-Isanti girl won state with 12-4.
“Every meet this year, it has been a nail biter to get over that first bar,” Fixsen said. “I managed to squeak by all season. It’s just unfortunate that the one time it happened (failing three times) was at sections.”
Fixsen was “feeling really fast” on the runway approach but didn’t get the other elements in synch. She blew through her pole on the first attempt, switched to a bigger pole, and got severely under on the takeoff on her last two. One consolation was her speed on the runway. “Faster equates to higher heights. I’m interested to see how high I can take it once my steps are on,” she said.
At state, competing in her other three events, she did well only in high jump, scaling 5-4 for third place. She scratched in all three attempts in long jump and had a poor start in 100 hurdles, not reaching finals. The fact that all three events take place at the same time, on the first morning, didn’t help, although she says she’s used to that by now.
Fixsen’s staggering achievements as a Mustang included personal bests of 13-9 1/4 (the state record) in pole vault, 17-5 1/2 in long jump, 15.30 in 100 hurdles and 5-8 in high jump. At a school with a great track history, she has team records in pole vault and high jump, while ranking fourth in long jump and fifth in 100 hurdles.
(Sidelights: Older sister Olivia is No. 2 in 100 hurdles and high jump, and her mom, Laura, held the family high jump record of 5-6, the school recored at Stanley-Boyd, WI, until Julie got 5-7 as a freshman at state to place second.)
Fixsen is a one-event athlete from now on, and as much as she enjoyed all four, she’s fine with that. “I am super excited,” she said, “to specialize in pole vault and put all my time, energy and focus in this event.” This year’s NCAA champion, Tori Hoggard of Arkansas, incidentally, went 14-11 1/4.