HINGHAM/WILMINGTON – Exactly a week earlier, Celia Kulis sat on the grass infield at Burlington High School in pain. She injured her foot and she was disappointed that she couldn’t compete at the level she wanted to in the high jump and especially the hurdles at the Middlesex League Championship Meet. At that time, the thought of competing seven days later at the state championship meet was the furthest thing from her mind. She just wanted to get healthy and feel better.
And throughout her short yet unbelievable track-and-field career, the future Holy Cross student-athlete has yet to really have to overcome any adversity within the sport. She was tested this past week and came through with flying colors. Not only did she get healthy, but last Thursday, she captured the State Pentathlon Championship Title as part of Day 1 of the Division 4 State Championship Meet held at Notre Dame Academy High School.
“I took a lot of rest. I have had many injuries in that foot and just have so many boots laying around the house. From the past, I used to dance a lot and that really messed up my foot a lot,” she said a day after the competition during Friday’s light practice. “We had everything around that we needed, we knew what to do which was to get rest. I slept a ton and we knew that would be the best for my body. Then I wore a boot around just to keep my foot stabilized.
“I didn’t come back to practice until Monday and when I came back I had tape on my foot and I was just jogging on the grass, staying away from the track. I was just trying to minimize my impact with the ground. Every day it felt like it was getting better, there was less twinge, less pain and everyday it was like ‘OK, I can push a bit more.’ The doctors think it was a bone bruise and the impact just jammed up the bones in my heel so I just obviously needed some time to heal.”
That proper rest and proper way of easing herself back into a competitive slate, which was immense in taking home the state title – a year after finishing third.
Coolies participated in five events for the pentathlon and although it says 30 minutes between each event, it’s much less.
“It’s really like 15 minutes because you need to get your marks and be ready, and you want to have your run throughs and everything else,” she said. “It just seems like it’s straight on continuously. I just try not to think about it. It’s just one of those, send me to the next place and I’ll go do it. If I sit down for too long, then I’ m thinking about it and if I’m thinking about it too much, then I’m stressing myself out.”
Before her first event, the hurdles, Kulis said she was extremely nervous, having no idea how she would do and how her foot would hold up.
“The hurdles scared me a lot because that’s where I injured my foot. I just wanted to make it through. That was my whole thing. There was only me and one other girl in my heat, and I just said ‘alright, you’ ve got to finish this.’ I did the whole race and felt fine,” she said. “That race gave me a boost of confidence for the rest of the day. I was so nervous coming into the meet. I didn’t want my ankle to give out and I knew it was weak. I knew that I wasn’t what I was back in the Stoneham meet, but we were able to continue to carry on and I did the high jump and because the officials messed up, I took a few more jumps than I was supposed to. But in the end, I ended up jumping close to my personal record.”
On the day, she was first in the 100-meter hurdles at 15.58, first in the high jump clearing 4-11.75 and first in the long jump, falling shy of her 17-foot plus school record leap of a week ago at 15- 08.25 Her time in the hurdles and mark in the long jump became meet records.
She was then third in the shot put throwing 26-02.75 and third in the final event, the 800-meter run at 3:01.65.
“The dreaded 800,” she said with a laugh. “I had a plan to go very slowly on the first lap and then kick it up in the last 200 meters and that’s what I did and it worked out.”
Once she finished that and the competition for the day, she found out a bit later that she was indeed the Division 4 State Pentathlon Champion.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I think my parents are on Cloud Nine. Even last night when I came home after getting some food, they just told me how proud they are of me, especially after coming back from the injury. I ‘m proud of myself too. I was so nervous,” she said. “Even if I didn’t do as well, I wanted to do somewhat well because I hold myself to a higher standard than I probably should. It’s just amazing. Having the team there to support me (meant so much). I had so many texts and my phone was blowing up even before the meet started so I knew that everyone was watching. It’s just an amazing feeling to have going out of your senior year like this.”
That senior year didn’t end with Thursday’s first place. It was actually just the beginning. On Monday, she added to her incredible state meet performance by winning the 100-meter hurdles and setting a new meet record with a time of 15.13 seconds. In that final race, she was neck-and-neck with Pembroke’s Allison Flaherty before separating herself around the fourth hurdle.
“I could feel her (right with me). That’s the whole mentality of the race is you want to push off (your opponents),” said Kulis. “When I felt her knew, that’s when I I had to make my push. When you do that, it gives you an extra encouragement to push yourself farther. Then (after taking the lead) it was like, ‘OK, now I have to keep going’.”
When it was over, coolies had no idea that she broke another meet record – all she wanted was to cool down.
“I’m tired. I’m beat, I’m hot and sticky. I just want to go sit in (a room with the) air conditioner (on) for like an hour,” she said with a smirk.