College Swimming and Diving: Wallace competes with heart of a Dragon
While most dragons take to the air, Julia Wallace does most of her traveling in the water.
Despite her different form of transportation, the former Brainerd High School graduate and current Minnesota State University, Moorhead swimmer was awarded the Dragon Award in May for her display of grit, heart and humility.
“That was a fun award to receive,” Wallace said. “There is one person chosen on each team for the Dragon Award. It shows who embodies the Dragon spirit the best. Grit, heart and humility are the three characteristics that we strive for as Dragons. I was honored to be chosen for that award. My team is very good at all three of those things so any of my teammates would have been worthy of receiving that award.”
Last season, Wallace was named one of four team captains -- the only underclassmen of the group. That was another honor Wallace took pride in receiving.
“I was a little surprised,” Wallace said. “We had some good senior leaders, but with our new coaching staff, they wanted to bring some of the younger athletes up so when we were seniors we would be ready.
“It was a little bit of surprise, but it was a lot of fun.”
Wallace not only fulfilled her captain’s responsibilities, but also enjoyed her most competitive season in the pool setting either college or lifetime bests in most of her events.
Wallace said the Dragon’s swimming and diving program is in a rebuilding phase. She said if and when her senior season begins most of the team will be freshmen. She’ll again serve as team captain along with competing in the backstroke and individual medley along with relays.
When she was a freshman, Wallace’s hardest adjustment to college was the length of the season.
“It definitely is a grind,” Wallace said. “We start the first week of school and we go until the middle of February. I remember in high school swimming year-round, but not competing year-round. That was a big difference. The season feels like it drags on when you get halfway through and we realize we’re only halfway through and that’s kind of hard. It’s definitely a change and it was hard to only be a one-sport athlete vs. like in high school when I golfed.”
Wallace said battling the grind was made easier by the training and work habits she developed in high school. She said physically she was ready for college athletics.
“Our high school program at Brainerd is just amazing,” Wallace said. “College was a different kind of training, but I felt ready for it because of the way my coaches prepared me in high school.
“Mentally, it’s a lot tougher than high school, but I knew I wanted a challenge and being part of a sports team helps with other aspects of college as well. That first year was a learning curve, but it was well worth it and I’m definitely thankful for my experiences so far as a college athlete.”
Wallace is majoring in elementary education and minoring in math and special ed. If she’s able to have a senior season her one personal goal is to break one minute in the backstroke. It’s been a goal since she was a high school freshman. She swam a 1:00.49 on Day 3 of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Swimming and Diving Championships Feb. 14, in Bismarck, N.D.
Hopefully, when that happens Wallace’s parents, Brian and Patty, will be in attendance. Currently, they have to choose between her and her younger sister Jamie, who swims at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
“They do have to trade off on who they go see, but they try to make it to as many meets as they can,” Wallace said. “They also bring my grandpa as much as they can, too, which is still really fun to have him watch us compete. He’s been one of our biggest fans since we were young. We really love seeing him in the stands.”
Wallace’s favorite part of continuing her swim career is the ability to compete against former high school teammates, especially her sister Jamie, which happened last season during a relay. Jamie Wallace is more a freestyler so the two sisters rarely swim against each other.
“There was one meet this past year where our relays were right next to each other,” Wallace said. “We were in different legs, but to be right next to her and get to high five her after the event was really awesome.”