MONTOURSVILLE, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The guts, stamina and perseverance required to run with the world’s best is on full display. And for one Montoursville High School track star, those qualities hit close to home.
For some athletes, inspiration runs in the family. That’s the case for Montoursville track star Lily Saul, a state qualifier in 2021 in the 400 and 800 meters, and the daughter of a state champion.
“We had a field day event here when I was younger. And I remember my mom was helping me warm up for it, and I beat everyone. So that was my first memory of running,” Lily said.
“I remember when she was a little girl, and her mom had all her state medals. And I think Lily was the only one who would sneak into the room and go under the bed and pull them out. Put on the gold medals, the silver medals, and then she would pose herself in the mirror,” said Ted Saul, Lily’s father.
35 years ago, Lily’s mother, Julia Palmer, ran her way into the Williamsport record books with a state championship in the 4 by 400 relay.
But in 2010 when Lily was just six years old, the family received tragic news. Julia was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer and died four years later at the age of 42. What she left was a legacy of greatness Lily strives to uphold every time her feet hit the track.
“She’s not there, but I feel like she’s there on my shoulder, and it gave me a lot of motivation. I feel like the reason I did so good this year is because I dedicated my season to her,” Lily said.
While Julia couldn’t witness her daughter’s track triumphs this year, others have helped pass the proverbial baton.
Marilouise Mazzante coached Julia to that title at Williamsport High School. Over three decades later, her work continues as more than just a trainer.
“And I promised Julia, when I saw her for the last time, that I would take care of her and Ted’s children, and that’s what I’m doing with Lily,” Mazzante said.
And it’s not just her former coach. Julia’s teammate, Williamsport grad Sean Walker now coaches Montoursville’s track and field team and sees Lily live that legacy every day.
“Julia, just like with Lily, it was always one of just walking, not sitting down, or just constantly onto the next goal. So, it was not, ‘I’m not just going to settle for this, I’m going to get better than this’,” Walker said.
A trait her father always knew was there.
“But yeah, I could tell, I knew all along she just had that “it factor”,” Ted said.
And one they hope will culminate in the most fitting of ways: a senior season, and a state championship.
“It would be the pinnacle, there’s absolutely no doubt. Absolutely no doubt. And I will tell you this, we will work very, very hard to have that come to fruition,” said Mazzante.
Lily says she hopes to continue running in college after her senior year. She’s currently looking at a number of schools.