For Shippensburg swimming standout Julia Strine, Ohio University and its swimming program felt like an extension of her family.
Julia, a state medal-winner and District 3 silver medalist in the breaststroke as a junior, committed to the school to be a part of the Bobcats’ Division 1 swim program Aug. 24.
“I wanted that family atmosphere with the team because that is what I grew up with,” Strine said. “I’ve been swimming with my sister [Jillian] and swimming with [high school teammates] Maddie [Osanitsch] and Makenna [Morris] for over half of my swimming career. Being able to find that family setting was really important to me and that was something that I felt when I was at Ohio University.”
It wasn’t just the team that attracted the Greyhound senior to Ohio University. The campus itself, which she visited at the beginning of August, felt like home.
“The campus is amazing,” she said. “Every facility that I would need to use, the weightroom, pool, my dorm; they are all within a 5-minute walking distance. Athens, Ohio, is a really nice town. It kind of reminds me of Shippensburg a little bit. That’s nice for me to know that I’m going to a place that kind of already feels like a home to me because it’s similar to the town I grew up in.”
When she visited, all she could do was picture herself there, swimming in their pool or working out in their weightroom. She felt like Ohio was where she belonged.
“I stepped on campus and this feeling like, ‘Wow, this is where I am going to end up,’” Julia stated. “You kind of get that gut feeling. The whole campus is so pretty. There is so much grass and so many trees. There is a big pond in the middle with a fountain and benches in the middle of campus for the students.”
At Ohio U., Julia will swim under the tutelage of head coach Mason Norman, an All-American swimmer at Wingate University who is entering his third season leading the Bobcat swimming program. His assistant, Carlye Ellis, is also an accomplished swimmer, having swam at the University of Texas.
“It’s a newer program, but they have been progressively getting better as a team over the past few years. Year after year they have kept climbing and climbing,” Julia said. “They always strive for the betterment of the athlete. [Coach Norman] is driven to push his athletes to become better, but he is also competitive enough to want that championship.”
She added, “The girls on the team are all very much like a family. They all take care of each other, they all push each other to be better and they are all really competitive, which is something I really wanted to be a part of. I have a competitive nature. I like to push myself and I like to push others. They just seemed like they have so much fun. They laugh together, they hang out together and do a lot of stuff together, which is really awesome.”
The Bobcats landed on Julia’s recruitment radar last September with a hand-written letter that read, “We are building this program and we would like it if you would be a part of it.”
Coach Norman would later make the 7-hour trip from Athens, Ohio, to Bucknell University in Lewisburg to watch her vie for a state medal. Of course, the state meet was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.
“The whole recruiting process is a lot of phone calls, research, getting to know the schools, talking to the coaches, DMing girls on the team and asking them questions and doing online tours,” Julia recalled. “It was a fun process because I got to meet a ton of coaches and a ton of girls from a bunch of different schools. But it was definitely something that I had to stay on top of and make sure I took scheduled phone calls and was available throughout the day.”
Julia is not the first Division 1 athlete in her family. Her father, Matt Strine, was a 1,000 point scorer for the Greyhounds on the hardwood before playing at the University of Delaware.
“He works hard day in and day out, even at his job now,” Julia said of her father. “In college he said that he tried to work harder than anyone on the team. If anyone was going to be the hardest worker, it was going to be him. I guess that did rub off on me because I always want to beat the person next to me to the wall. I always want to do one more squat than the girl next me in the weightroom. I always want to be the hardest worker.”
She continued, “He also taught me to never give up and that the chances are coming. It might take a little longer for some things but as long as I keep working at it and pushing through, it’ll eventually work out in my favor.”
Outside of the pool, Julia plans to major in either a science or medical field.
“The other big thing about Ohio are the majors. They have tons of choices for majors, which is awesome because I think that I know what I want to do, but maybe in a year I’ll change my mind. The major I want will still be there,” Julia said. “I think I want to be a physician assistant, which is awesome because Ohio has a great PA, pre-med program. They just finished a new chemistry lab and a new health science building. Also, right on the outskirts of campus is a hospital. Everything I would ever really need is right there.”
Julia made it a point to thank her coaches, teammates, family and friends; all of which played a big part in allowing her to continue her swimming career.
Her grandmother would send Julia articles and research on prospective programs. Also, at the beginning of the recruiting process, her father made a spreadsheet of approximately 35 schools within a 3- to 5-hour radius of Shippensburg to use as a starting point.
Everyone in the family was supportive of her during the process.
“My brother as soon as I committed ran and put on his Ohio University T-shirt,” Julia recalled.
While selecting a school, she would also seek the opinion of teammates and coaches. Her club coach, Chambersburg YMCA swim coach Matt Ellis, was very helpful during the recruiting process.
“Matt would say I think you might thrive in this program or I think you might be at the top of this program, and I don’t think you want to be at the top. You want to work to the top,” Julia stated. “It’s helpful to have someone who isn’t a family member to talk about these things because you know they are going to be honest with you. That’s why I talked to them as well.”
Julia is excited for what the future holds, whether at Ohio U. or in the shorter term, and is looking for big things in her final season as a Greyhound.
Her goal is to win a state championship and put her already tough school records even further out of reach. She would also like to win a state medal in a second individual event.
“Ultimately I just want to have a fun season and enjoy it while I can, finish out my high school career at a great school that has given me so many athletic opportunities, and I think that I am going to go on to have even better opportunities [at Ohio U.],” she said. “I am so excited for this season and the seasons to come.”