The East Carolina University women’s swim team has been dominated by Julie Lajoie, whose scores have consistently helped maintain the Pirate women’s 5-1 record this season. However, Lajoie’s journey as a swimmer began long before she came to Greenville.
“I began to love swimming at a young age,” Lajoie said. “I had an older sister who swam and a young sister who swam too; I was part of a swimming family. I was lucky enough to swim in college and having that love for swimming and the drive and determination has helped me get to where I am.”
In her first year at ECU, Lajoie competed in seven dual meets where she was a member of the Pirates' American Athletic Conference Championship meet squad. She scored 27 points in the AAC Championship meet and earned All-Conference honors with a third-place finish in the 400-yard Individual Medley (IM) race, earning her the ECU freshman record.
She also posted an eighth place finish in the 200-yard backstroke in the championship finals, while helping set the ECU varsity record in the 400-yard Medley Relay. Lajoie was voted ECU's Most Outstanding Rookie and posted nine first-place finishes and eight second-place finishes, according to ECU coaches and meet results.
“When I came to ECU for the first time, I had a great time,” Lajoie said. “The team was really friendly and the coaches were awesome, it really felt like this was the place for me,” Lajoie said.
As a sophomore, Lajoie competed in eight dual meets and scored 34 points in the AAC Championship meet. She was a two-time conference championship finalist, placing fourth in the 400 IM and seventh in the 200-yard butterfly. Lajoie had 21 top-three finishes during the regular season of this year with 14 individual victories in races. She was the recipient of the ECU Coaches Award and a member of the AAC All-Academic Team.
“During sophomore year I had a class conflict that made it so I swam with Lajoie on Monday’s during (our) sophomore year,” senior swimming teammate Bridie Burke said. “We would train the events I would swim in, but she would train with me. It was not her best event, but she was still able to completely be competitive in it and do really well in the set even though it was not her main event.”
In the 2016-17 season, Lajoie competed in 12 regular season meets with 35 top-three finishes and accumulated 280 dual meet points. She scored a team-high 39 points at the AAC Championship meet this season, while also recording NCAA B qualifying times in the 200-yard butterfly and 400-yard IM, which she set the ECU varsity record in for that season. She was named the American Female-Swimmer-of-the-Week on Oct. 15 of last year and was the recipient of the swim team's Most Outstanding and Most Improved awards.
“Lajoie is incredibly versatile,” Burke said. “She swims in many different events and succeeds in every single one of them. She is able to focus on everything she does and she does it really really well which is very admirable.”
Lajoie has improved on not only her times, but her level of contribution to the team as well. The amount of points she has contributed at the conference championship meet has increased from 27 to 39 in three seasons at the AAC Championship each year she has been at ECU.
“I have become smarter as a swimmer. I look more into my swims and analyze how I did and what I can improve on, which is something I did not do as much when I was younger,” Lajoie said. “Each year, I have been getting smarter in knowing what I can do to get better, not only in the pool, but outside the pool as well.”
This year, Lajoie has dominated in all of the meets beginning with the road trip to Navy and continuing up to this point in the season. Lajoie has posted multiple first places in all four meets, which has come in events such as the 100 and 200-yard butterfly, the 500-yard freestyle, the 200 and 400-yard IM and the 200-yard backstroke.
Outside of the pool, Lajoie has made the Dean’s list each year as well. According to Jabs, she has shown and demonstrated complete commitment and dedication to making sure she performs really well in and out of the pool.
“We may have not had all the victories we have had without her on the roster,” Jabs said. “We can put her in almost anything and she is going to go out and do what she needs to do and score big points for us. She has been a big part of what we have accomplished thus far.”