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From the Bench: Muller's Run on Path Less Traveled has Her among State's Elite and on College's Radar

By Jeff Toquinto on October 07, 2018 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Mention the name Joey Chestnut and for those that follow the world of competitive eating, a plate of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs spring to mind.
 
Mention the name Julia Muller and the image of her either winning or finishing near the top of the field for cross country events for Bridgeport High School usually comes to mind.
 
Chestnut is ranked first in the world by Major League Eating (yep, it exists). Muller currently ranks fourth in Class AA-A runners in West Virginia.
 
Both are at or near the top of their respective fields. Outside of that, one may wonder what Joey Chestnut and the BHS senior have in common.
 
Nothing, yet unintentionally plenty. While Chestnut is famous in his line of competition because of how much he can eat, Muller is successful in her line of competition partially because of what she does eat – even if you probably don’t know about it.
 
There’s plenty of reasons Julia Muller has crossed the finish line first this year in multiple XC events and leads the Indians’ girls team as they near the postseason. You can point to conditioning, dedication and discipline among many of the factors.
 
If you leave out diet, then you’re missing an important one. While Chestnut is tossing down fat and calorie-loaded dogs, Muller is likely enjoying an avocado.
 
Not that there’s anything wrong with an avocado. Plenty of Muller’s peers eat them. Most of her peers, however, are likely enjoying some McDonald’s, some Chick-fil-A, snacks and ice cream and probably enjoyed more than one butter covered or sauce bathed item from the grill this past summer.
 
For Muller, it’s not on the menu. In fact, it hasn’t been on the menu since her sophomore year.
 
“I’m pretty strict about what I eat,” said Muller. “After a while, you not only get used to it you actually feel better.”
 
It would be hard to argue it’s not been effective based on the results alone. So if you want to go that route, consider what Muller is likely going to eat today for breakfast and lunch.
 
Breakfast features some overnight oats. Lunch is a sandwich with vegetables and avocado.
 
“I don’t usually put meats on the sandwich,” said Muller. “It’s pretty standard what I’m eating. There are usually lots of greens involved. I’ll eat meat, but it’s not a major part of my diet.”
 
A treat for dinner often comes from her grandfather. He lives next door to Muller and likes to cook out.
 
“That’s when I usually eat meat, but it’s salmon or turkey and chicken. I’ll combine with vegetables and brown rice,” said Muller.
 
This past Monday Muller was talking about her lunch at school that day. It’s highly likely it was the only one of the kind in the school, Harrison County, West Virginia and beyond.
 
“I’ve got avocado, green peppers, spinach and hummus on a sandwich,” she said. “I’ve also got some sweet potatoes.”
 
While Muller is certainly an anomaly when it comes to a teenage diet, she’s not the first runner at Bridgeport High School to go down the healthy food path that doesn’t include sweets, treats or fast foods. Recently, in this very blog, it was reported on McKenna Smith – who owns every sprint record in the state and is on scholarship for track at West Virginia University – had went full healthy diet as well.
 
“I know Julia saw what McKenna Smith had done and her routine and what a difference it made for her and I think that’s been part of it. You have to have discipline to do that and Julia has it,” said BHS Coach Jon Griffith. “Our staff in cross country and track emphasize healthy eating and things like extra sleep because those little things make the difference. It would be hard to argue it hasn’t made a difference for Julia.”
 
One would probably imagine the peer pressure would be unbearable. After all, Muller has been doing this since her sophomore year and has probably been out with friends more than one time when a bag of chips was floated or a stop at a convenience store, restaurant or fast food joint was on the radar.
 
She said it’s not too difficult.  And she pointed to another pleasant surprise.
 
“Most of my friends eat pretty healthy too. We all kind of eat healthy so it’s not really that different, which helps,” said Muller.
 
That doesn’t mean she won’t eat fast food. She has and does, but it’s more out of necessity than want.
 
“I’d say I’ll eat fast food about once every three months,” said Muller. “It’s rare because that happens most often when I’m traveling and there aren’t many options. I just don’t crave it, even sweets.
 
Griffith said he’s always impressed when one of his student-athletes goes above and beyond to be their best. And he said he knows from experience what Muller is doing probably wasn’t easy to do.
 
“I’m guilty as much as anybody when it comes to not always eating the best food. I love a good Dairy Queen Blizzard,” said Griffith with a laugh. “It’s hard today because there’s temptation everywhere with a constant bombardment on every type of communication platform of things that aren’t good for you. To withstand that temptation requires someone to be mentally strong.
 
“Julia is absolutely that,” he continued. “Honesty, it’s not that others can’t do what she’s doing because they can. They just choose not to so when you see it you have a lot of respect for it. Her decision is paying off.”
 
It looks like it will continue to pay off into the future beyond the rest of the cross country season and the upcoming track and field campaign. Muller looks to be heading to college to compete.
 
Griffith said several schools have shown interest. In fact, he said Marshall University was at the recent Harrison County Track Meet taking in her effort.
 
“I think she’ll do extremely well wherever she goes. She’s got interest from WVU, Marshall, California (Pa.), all the in-state schools and others … There are schools aggressively recruiting here so it will be interesting to see where she goes,” said Griffith. “We always advise the kids to be sure to look at what the majors are at the schools that want you because that should be a big component. We also tell them that it’s a bigger commitment at college than here, particularly if you commit to a Division I program.”
 
As of now, it appears the Thundering Herd may have a bit of a lead.
 
“I’m looking at Marshall and talking with them,” said Muller. “I’ve been on an official visit there.”
 
Wherever she goes, she said it will be tough saying goodbye to Bridgeport.
 
“Bridgeport is awesome and Coach Griffith is fantastic. He’s a great coach who is support and makes rue we’re doing our best to succeed individually and as part of the team atmosphere,” said Muller “It’s not just about running. Coach Griffith teaches us about life and things that are important to make you do better than you can expect. I think I’ve benefitted from that.”
 
That, and a unique diet. It’s got Muller heading to her senior year finish line with a bang.
 
Editor's Note: Top and bottom photos of Julia Muller in competition by www.benqueenphotography.com. Second and third photos of Muller with her lunch courtesy of Mr. Brad Bonenberger and the BHS Journalism Department.


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