Story and Photo Courtesy of:
Sports Editor - Elkin Tribune
When Julianna Prim first started swimming with the Elkin Wet Lightning as a youngster, she’d be a nervous wreck getting ready for her events.
“Sometimes I’d have to tap her in,” her mom, Valerie Prim, said. “Everybody was saying, ‘What a bad mama.’ But then they’d see her crawl out on the other side and she would just be beaming.”
Julianna, now a Starmount High School graduate, still beams when she’s in the pool. And now it’s everyone else who gets nervous about stepping up to the blocks to compete against her.
Over the past decade, Prim has developed into one of the Tri-County area‘s most dominant female swimmers. She won four high school state championships from 2007-09 and also has captured gold in national-level YMCA races.
This fall and winter, Prim will be going after NCAA Division II elite status while swimming for Pfeiffer University. She signed a letter of intent to join the Falcons’ program last month, ending a lengthy recruiting process which saw her make a verbal commitment to another school only to change her mind.
Prim will follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Joy Prim, who was Pfeiffer’s team MVP this past season as a senior.
“(Pfeiffer) is not where I thought I’d go, but now I feel like it’s where God wants me to be and that I belong there,” Julianna said. “The coach there is great. The people that I know on the team are very nice and I think it will be a good fit.”
As Prim moved up to high school age, her times in events like the butterfly and individual medley put her on the radar of several major college programs.
She got a call from NC State coach Brooks Teal and others on the first day that contact was allowed with rising senior athletes last July 1. She ended up visiting the Wolfpack as well as Florida State and Maryland.
Prim also was heavily recruited by Gardner-Webb, where her dad and long-time coach, Oz Prim, used to teach. Former Elkin High swim standout Steven Caudill — a friend of the Prims for many years — will be a junior in Gardner-Webb’s program in 2009-10.
As the process played out, the two programs closest to her Yadkinville home, emerged as her leaders. Prim initially made a non-binding verbal commitment to swim for Gardner-Webb. But after thinking through her decision some more, she opted to sign with Pfeiffer. The final decision was made right before the Prims headed off to their annual visit to Michigan’s summer swim camp.
Julianna felt a large weight come off her shoulders when she finally put pen to paper.
“Pfeiffer’s coach (Eric Anderson) is very personable, very caring,“ Valerie Prim said. “He gave up his teaching job last year to start working on that program full time. We were very impressed with that. And on his own, he would come and watch her basketball games. He would sit up there in the stands. That just shows you how much he wanted her. Not that the other coaches didn’t want her.
“It was a very hard process for her.”
Had Ann Arbor, Mich. been a lot closer, Julianna likely would have ended up wearing the Maize and Blue of Michigan. Their coach and Oz Prim are “dear, dear, very close” friends, Oz said. The Prims are long-time friends with NC State’s Brooks Teal as well, but Julianna wasn’t drawn to the Raleigh campus like she thought she might be after her official visit last fall.
“I know she would have gone to Wake in a heartbeat if they would have had a swim team,” Valerie Prim said. “I started working on them four years ago.”
Prim is not sure yet what she wants to study in college. The Starmount valedictorian for 2009 still likes “everything,” she said.
In the pool she’s aiming for All-America status as a collegian — a strong possibility — and getting another shot at making the U.S. Olympic Trials for 2012. Prim barely missed making the ’08 Olympic Trial cuts in butterfly, literally by tenths of a second.
“That’s still a goal,” she said. “I’m going to work hard. I have good times now, but you have to get the times in the same year (as the Olympics).”
While staying devoted to swimming, Prim certainly got the most out of her senior year of high school in other areas. She decided to play varsity basketball for the Rams for the first time, earning first-team all-conference status and getting consideration for Mountain Valley 2A Player of the Year.
She also tried track and field for the first time in the spring and excelled in events like the shot put, discus and 800 meters.
“I can tell you that I really enjoyed the basketball team,” said Oz Prim, who has been Julianna’s swim coach her entire career. “There was less pressure for me. I just enjoyed being a parent. I loved it. And Kyle (Hutchens, Starmount’s girls basketball coach) was a great coach. It made for a great senior year.”
Julianna said that basketball was still a possibility for her at Pfeiffer, another appealing aspect of going there. That door would be closed at bigger schools like NC State, Maryland and Michigan.
“I definitely would like to practice with them because I still enjoy playing,” she said. “I don’t know about the games and stuff. But the option is there.”
While helping lead Starmount to one of its most successful girls basketball campaigns in years, Prim also successfully defended her state title in the 100 butterfly and finished second in the 50 freestyle in February‘s 1A/2A championships, being out-touched in the free by a friendly rival from Elkin High, Lakenn Reynolds.
Prim won two state titles in 2008, acing the 50 freestyle (edging Elkin’s Sarah Neaves for first) and 100 fly. She also was state champ in the 100 fly in 2007.
This summer, Julianna is continuing to swim for both of the area’s recreational teams, the Wet Lightning (coached by Oz Prim and Sybil Myers) and Yadkin Stingrays (coached by her older sister). She’s also competing in meets for the year-round North Piedmont Aquatic Club.
While watching a recent Elkin summer meet where Julianna again won all of her individual events, Valerie Prim started reminiscing about the early days of her youngest daughter’s swim career.
“I saw these four little girls together and I had this flashback of Julianna, Emily and Erin Welborn and Sarah Neaves,” Valerie Prim said. “The four of them, they were just such good competitors and yet at that age, such good friends. I still have pictures of them with their trophies at the end of that season. Their trophies were about as big as they were.
“It’s neat to see what goes around, comes around. All four of them went on to compete against each other in high school.”
Joy and Valerie Prim both love to tell the story of how Joy was able to con Julianna out of some of her very first blue ribbons.
“She didn’t quite realize for awhile that blue meant first,” Joy said. “So she’d trade with me to get different colors … Then she got old enough to realize what I was doing.”
But never too old to lose her beaming look whenever she’s around the water.