Hammer Time

April 30, 2003

By Nick Schenck, Sports Information Student Assistant

As the USC throwers gathered for one of their last meetings before the UCLA dual meet, their coach, Dan Lange, briefly mentioned the day's training schedule before letting them go. As the team was leaving, Coach Lange jokingly asked which thrower was going to get him a cup of coffee.

'I'll do it,' said USC's three-time All-American hammer thrower Julianna Tudja, before anyone else had a chance to respond.

'That's the Pac-10 record holder,' said Coach Lange aloud to the rest of the team, acknowledging his star thrower's selflessness.

In the world of sports, where many star athletes are criticized for being spoiled, Julianna Tudja is a breath of fresh air. Even though she was a five-time Hungarian national champion and is the USC and Pac-10 record holder in the hammer throw, Julianna remains grounded and realizes how lucky she is to attend USC and compete on the track and field team.

'I am proud to be a Trojan,' said Tudja. 'USC is one of the only places in the world where you can get a very good university degree and the school provides such a quality atmosphere for sports.'

Ever since Julianna was a young girl growing up in Vamosi, Hungary, she had dreamed of studying in the U.S. and competing in track and field. After watching former USC all-time record holder and four-time NCAA Champion in the hammer throw, Balazs Kiss, win the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, Julianna knew how she could make her dream come true.

At 18 years old, Julianna dedicated herself to practicing the hammer throw. A year after she started training, she won the Hungarian National Championship: the first of five national championships that she would eventually win. Needless to say, Julianna began to receive recruiting letters from track coaches at American universities, such as USC. After much consideration, Julianna decided to be loyal and commit to the college that first recruited her, Southern Methodist University (SMU).

After one year of competition at SMU, in which she finished 13th at the NCAA meet, Julianna knew where she really belonged.

'I really enjoyed myself at SMU,' Tudja said. 'The SMU coaches invested a lot in me. But I listened to myself and I felt that Coach Lange (at USC) would be better for me. I felt USC would be a good team.'

Upon arriving at USC in 2001, Julianna continued her winning ways. During her first track season, she broke the then-USC record hammer throw of 206-9 with a personal-best 210-11 on her way to a third-place finish at the NCAAs. It was the highest NCAA finish ever in the hammer by a USC woman.

Unfortunately, during her next track season, Julianna failed to improve on her previous hammer throw performances. Even though she still placed ninth at the 2002 NCAAs, Julianna was disappointed in her performance and quickly returned to Hungary after the season to train and make adjustments.

'Without a break (after the 2002 track season), I worked out very hard in Hungary,' said Tudja. 'My technique improved. I also paid attention to my nutrition more than last year.'

In addition to becoming stronger and healthier during the off-season, Julianna also matured as a person and modified her mental approach to throwing.

'I did a lot of thinking in Hungary this past summer,' said Tudja. 'I learned that you can't throw the hammer based on pure physical strength. It is a mental game. I've improved my mental strength (this season).'

Her results speak for themselves. This season she threw a new personal-best hammer throw of 218-5, which broke both the old USC and Pac-10 hammer throw records. She has surpassed 208 feet or better six times. Her performance comes as no surprise to her coach, who thinks that Julianna has only cracked the surface of her potential.

'Her performances this year have been excellent,' said Lange. 'I've coached a lot of really good throwers and Julianna is throwing about as well as anybody I have ever coached. I can tell you that 218-5 was not her full potential.'

Going into the UCLA dual meet, Julianna felt very confident and focused. USC had never beaten UCLA while Julianna has been a Trojan, and she was determined to do her part to change that.

'I don't like to make predictions about my performance,' said Tudja before the meet. 'But I'll try my very best as always and we'll see if that is enough (to beat UCLA).'

The Women of Troy fell to UCLA, but Tudja did her part, winning the hammer with a throw of 212-5, setting a USC-UCLA dual meet record.

Just another great throw in a dream season.

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