Going the Distance
Greenwood cross-country standout Julia Arruda invited to elite competition in Australia
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Earlier this year Julia Arruda, a sophomore at Greenwood Community High School, received a letter informing her that she’d been chosen as one of only 500 student-athletes in the U.S. to participate in this summer’s Down Under Sports event, an annual series of competitions held in Australia that feature star athletes from countries all over the world.
An avid cross-country and track competitor, Arruda has already become a standout athlete as a sophomore and developed a true passion for running and immediately knew she would do whatever it takes to make the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia happen.
“It was hard to believe when I got the letter,” she recalls. “I was so excited.”
Arruda’s race times in last fall’s cross-country season, during which she received All-Johnson County honors and qualified for the high school semi-state competition, were noticed by Down Under Sports representatives based in Utah, who officially sent her the invite in January to compete in two cross-country races. The annual Down Under Sports tournament also includes basketball, track and field, golf, football, volleyball and basketball competitions throughout June and July.
“Julia’s been passionate about running since middle school, and eighth grade is really when she got into it,” recalls Julia’s mother Michelle Roberts. “She usually works out for an hour in the morning with weights and runs six to seven miles a day.”
Julia created a GoFundMe page in February and has been working hard to raise the $4,000 she needs for the 10-day Australia trip, which runs from June 26 through July 5 – but hard work is certainly nothing new to the sixteen-year-old. In addition to being a standout on Greenwood’s cross country team, she also plays soccer, runs track, participates in show choir and has somehow recently found time to work five to six days a week at McDonald’s.
“She has this amazing drive that is unbelievable,” Michelle says. “She’s had perfect attendance at school for the last three years and gets good grades. I’ve actually been trying to tell her to slow down with all her activities and stuff or she’ll burn out.”
Arruda, who plans to run cross country in college, says she’s looking forward to getting exposure to Australian culture and athletes from various countries every bit as much as competing in the Down Under Sports cross-country races, which include the Gold Coast 5.7K Challenge and the All-American 5K Meet. The 10-day trip will include sightseeing and group activities with her fellow competitors and coaches, as well as an awards ceremony after the competitions.
“I bet the training and running there will be fun, and I really want to meet new people,” she says.
The deadline for submission of payment from invited athletes to Down Under Sports is May 15, and Michelle says Julia is working diligently to earn money on her own for the trip, as well as overseeing her GoFundMe page.
“I think it will be a great experience for Julia, not just the running part and training with different people from all over the world but seeing a different country,” Michelle says. “And it will look really good on her resume for college. Julia works so hard in her sports and with her schooling and is working for an honors diploma. She wants to get a good scholarship somewhere.”
Founded in the winter of 1989 by New Zealand native and American football fanatic George O’Scanlon, Down Under Sports was created to bring together athletes from countries all over the world and expose those individuals and their families to Australian culture. The event has been host to several NFL players and Olympic athletes since its inception.
Visit Arruda’s fundraising page at gofundme.com/running-in-australia.
For more information on the annual Down Under Sports tournament, visit downundersports.com.