July 5, 2017

After Taking 6th in NCAAs in PU Track Finale, Ratcliffe Aiming to Continue International Career

BRINGING THE HAMMER: Julia Ratcliffe displays her hammer throw form. Recently graduated Ratcliffe wrapped up her storied career with the Princeton University women’s track team by placing sixth in the hammer at the NCAA Championships last month. New Zealand native Ratcliffe, who just missed making the 2016 Summer Olympics, will be continuing her international career this summer as she competes in the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships in London and the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Julia Ratcliffe took a hiatus from her Princeton University track career, heading to her native New Zealand for a year to train for a shot at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

While Ratcliffe won the New Zealand championship, she fell just short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 71 meters, or 232’11, missing out on a trip to Rio de Janeiro.

“It was pretty tough at the time,” said Ratcliffe, noting that she was 23 centimeters, or nine inches away, from hitting the standard.

“At the end of all the competition of summer with the deadlines and the qualifying, I was really ready for a break. I was mentally burned out.”

By last September, Ratcliffe was ready to return for her senior year at Princeton.

“It was so much fun coming back,” said Ratcliffe, who hails from Hamilton, New Zealand.

“Some of my classmates had graduated so I thought it would be hard coming back and being on the team and making the transition.”

But Ratcliffe made a smooth transition back to the world of college track, picking up where she left off as the dominant woman hammer thrower in Princeton history.

She started her senior season by winning the weight throw at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships. This spring, she won the hammer throw at the Penn Relays, becoming the only hammer thrower in the 123-year history of the storied competition to win the event four times. Ratcliffe took first in the hammer throw at the Outdoor Heps, making her the only thrower in Ivy history to win four hammer throw titles.

Ending her Princeton career in style, Ratcliffe finished sixth at the NCAA Championships last month with a throw of 214’1 to earn first-team All-America honors. She is the first Tiger in program history to earn three first-team All-America honors in the same event during her career. Ratcliffe was 11th as a freshman, the national champion as a sophomore, and the national runner-up as a junior.

While Ratcliffe hoped to throw farther this spring, she was glad to keep piling up the wins.

“The distance results have not been that great,” said Ratcliffe, noting that two meets this spring took place in pouring rain and freezing cold. “The placings are still there so I maintained those wins throughout the season.”

Getting a win at her final Ivy championship meet was a big highlight for Ratcliffe.

“The Heps was probably my favorite meet of the season just because I go in with the mentality that the throw is for the team,” said Ratcliffe. “It is getting the win for the team and the rest of it. I had a great throw there.”

Coming into the NCAAs, Ratcliffe knew she was facing a big challenge in Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen, who uncorked a throw of 240’7 to win the competition.

“I really hadn’t had any competition this season,” said Ratcliffe, who graduated from Princeton with the school and Ivy League record of 70.28 m. (230’7) and is the New Zealand national record holder with a 70.75  m. (232’1.50). “I was excited to see what I can do, coming in knowing that there is big fish coming out there.”

In reflecting on her Princeton career, Ratcliffe views her success as a product of doing her best for the team.

“I have loved my time here,” said Ratcliffe, who was one of 10 finalists for the 2017 C. Otto von Kienbusch Award given to Princeton’s top senior female athlete.

“If you are competing for yourself, it is hard to motivate yourself but as soon as you are competing for your country or your school, it is like you are competing for somebody else. I have always felt that like I can go out there wearing the ‘P’ on my chest and really just give everything.”

Having come so far for college, Ratcliffe has certainly gotten a lot in return.

“You get so many opportunities here that universities in New Zealand don’t afford you,” said Ratcliffe, an economics major and Academic All-Ivy honoree who is interested in pursuing graduate work after she moves on from track.

“It is lot harder to get in but I feel these great opportunities are given to anybody who is willing to go out and look for them. I felt that was really incredible. I have certainly been humbled by my classmates and teammates. I am surrounded by people I am constantly inspired by because the students and the athletes you come across at Princeton are just insane.”

Looking ahead, Ratcliffe is inspired to keep competing on the international level.

“The 2020 Olympics is still in the cards; my next solid goal is the Commonwealth Games in 2018,” said Ratcliffe.

“Over the summer, I will be aiming for the World Championships in London and the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan. They are both in August. I will take off September and go back to New Zealand to keep training and start my campaign for the Commonwealth Games.”