The Shippensburg Area Senior High School girls swim team received some long-awaited closure to their 2019-20 season when they were PIAA state swimming medals arrived in the mail June 3.
The medals were awarded based on their seed time heading into the March state meet, which was canceled due to the coronavirus. The Ship relay team of Julia Strine, Maddie Osanitsch, Makenna Morris and Jillian Strine each received a pair of relay medals, winning bronze in the girls AA 200 medley relay and 6th in the 200 free relay. Junior Julia Strine also received an 8th place medal for her seed time in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The medals came as a pleasant surprise to each of the four Greyhound recipients.
“I was going in to return my textbooks for the year. After I turned all my stuff in, our Athletic Director came out and said wait, I have something for you from PIAA,” Julia stated. “I started freaking out in the lobby of the school. I can’t believe it and didn’t think this was going to happen.”
“We were sure that the PIAA wasn’t going to send them out just because for a long period of time we didn’t hear anything,” said Maddie. “Then Julia texted me that we got them and I was in complete shock, but I was really excited to accomplish a goal that I had been going after for a long time.”
The relay medals were the first state hardware for Maddie and McKenna, both seniors, as well as Jillian, a freshman. Maddie had previously just missed out on a state medal as a sophomore.
Julia’s three state medals give her five total for her career. She previously won a pair of individual medals in the 100-yard breaststroke, placing 7th in the state as a freshman and 4th overall last year as a sophomore.
“All-in-all, I think we all wish we still would have swam,” Julia said. “You make it that far in the season, you want to swim. But the medals definitely did help provide closure. We were really proud of the season that we had.”
The Greyhounds were already on site at Bucknell University when the state meet was postponed back in March. They waited for about a month, hoping for a chance to get to swim before reality began to set in.
Makenna, a four-time state qualifier, recalled the chaos in the gym the moment when the teams received the news.
“People were crying and everyone was making phone calls to their parents,” she recalled. “It was really upsetting. We knew that it was coming, for them to cancel it. Not long after that our school year got canceled. So it was then that we knew that states was definitely a no go.
“It’s upsetting because I am a senior and I am not going to be swimming in college. What would have been my last race, I never got. It’s frustrating and upsetting. We were excited about our relays and how well we were going to do. But then, receiving our medals was a really big surprise. It definitely made it a little less bitter and a little more bittersweet.”
Makenna called the state meet and the months that followed a “weird bonding experience.”
“We are close to begin with, in or out of swim season. We are always checking in on each other. We grew up with each other on club teams,” she said. “We had each other’s backs because we all had our moments where we were more sad or more angry, but we supported each other through the whole thing.”
According to the Greyhounds, the medals represent much more than just the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded this year’s state meet.
“Going into this season, we knew that it had the potential to be very good and our goal was to get one relay to medal at states, and to be placed third going into states was crazy,” Julia said. “Now every time I see those medals, I see the hard work behind them. Maddie and Kenna, I have swam with them for over half my life, and having that medal reminds me of how strong the team bond was and how I wouldn’t be able to do this without the other girls.”
She continued, “More than anything, the medals represent pure teamwork and everything we faced during the season and throughout the years finally tied up in a neat little bow.”
The next stop for Makenna and Maddie is college. Makenna will attend HACC in the fall where she will study nursing. Maddie will attend Bloomsburg University to major in speech language pathology/audiology and continue her swimming career.
“I’ve had a passion for helping others, and I always wanted to be in the medical field,” Makenna noted. “Especially with all this going on, it is driving me to stick with nursing. I see how much nurses do for others, especially in a time of COVID-19.”
“I went back and forth between healthcare and education, it was hard for me to decide,” Maddie said. “I always just really wanted to help people and I find [speech therapy] really interesting. I want to be a speech therapist in a school district. I’ve shadowed speech therapists both in hospitals and in school districts, and I think I like working with kids better.”
She continued, “I am really excited to get back into racing, to be able to get back to that team aspect instead of just training and staying in shape. I’m excited to go to Bloom.”
Julia and Jillian, like Maddie, are excited to get back to swimming, and hopefully follow up on what has been a memorable season.
“Julia and I just started recently kind of getting back in [the pool],” said Jillian. “We haven’t swam in three months and I was starting to miss swimming. Coming back to it, when I got in, I just straight sunk to the bottom. I couldn’t swim. It’s a hard sport to get back into, but so is any other sport.”
Julia added, “In my opinion, this swim season was probably one of the best Shippensburg has ever had. We brought home nine state medals as a team. I just think that’s pretty amazing despite all the adversity that we faced.”