Track stars Tozduman, Cruz-Fletcher medal at Meet of Champions

Julia Tozduman had accomplished just about every goal she had for her high school track career. On Wednesday, the Lyndhurst senior was able to check off one final goal in her last varsity meet.

Tozduman put a bow on one of the finest track careers any Observer girl has had by placing sixth place in the Long Jump with a score of 18-00.50 at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in Pennsauken.

With her performance, she became the first Lyndhurst girl to medal at the Outdoor MOC in more than a decade.

Tozduman was one of two Observer-area girls to medal at MOC, joining Bloomfield’s Mercedes Cruz-Fletcher, who finished eighth in the 100 Meter Hurdles.

“I was extremely proud of myself to be able to medal (at MOC) my senior year as that was always the final goal,” Tozduman said.

As a junior, Tozduman took fifth place at the Indoor MOC in the Long Jump. A medal in the outdoor season had eluded her though as she claimed ninth place both her sophomore and junior seasons.

Tozduman recorded a 17-00 on her first jump of the day. It was on Tozduman’s second jump when she knew she was in line to make it to the finals and get that elusive top eight finish.

“I was very excited to be able to jump an 18 footer on my second jump,” said Tozduman. “That gave me the confidence to make it into the finals, which would secure a top eight finish.”

“Once she hit 18, I knew we were okay,” Tuero said. “As soon as she hit 18, there were only a couple of girls hitting 18 and 19, so I knew she was in the finals.”

While Tozduman was unable to eclipse the 18-00.50, it was enough to meet one of the few goals that she hadn’t achieved in her time at Lyndhurst.

“I was extremely emotional and there were also tears,” Tozduman said. “I couldn’t believe that was my last jump in that LHS uniform with Coach Tuero as my coach, but I was also just so proud of myself to be able to accomplish such an amazing thing. Placing at MOC has always been a goal and I was so happy to achieve that my last season.”

While the Meet of Champions marked the final chapter in the career of the Sacred Heart-bound Tozduman, Cruz-Fletcher has another year left to go.

In her preliminary heat, Cruz-Fletcher ran a blistering 14.78 time – the second best of her career, to qualify for the final and ensure a spot on the medal stand.

“When we were talking to her, we said you have to run your best race to make the final,” Bloomfield coach Terry Iavarone said. “She knew she could do it and it was just all the hard work that paid off. And when we found out she made the finals, everything was worth it. It was amazing.”

Cruz-Fletcher followed it up with a 14.81 in the finals to finish in eight place. Even after a season that saw her place eighth in the state and win an Essex County championship, Cruz-Fletcher is far from satisfied.

“She ran her best race and once we knew she made the finals, we went okay, you made it. And she goes, ‘I want to do more,’” said Iavarone. “Her mindset is incredible.

“What I like about Mercedes is that she has goals written down on a sheet and she already has her goals for next year. She wants to win the county and the section. She wants to be an All-American for indoor and outdoor. She has a plan, she knows she’s going to do it and with the hard work she puts in, she will.”

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)