Ex-Titan finds West Virginia ‘a perfect fit’ for academics, rowing
By Robert Fulton
There are two lines on the graph that will be the focus of Madison James’ future collegiate life. The first line is studying nursing. The second line is competing as a Division I varsity athlete.
It turns out that the point where those two lines intersect for Madison James is at West Virginia University.
Madison, who recently graduated from Poway High School, will attend West Virginia University this fall on a scholarship from the school’s rowing program.
“West Virginia was the perfect culmination where I could go for academics as well as rowing,” Madison said last week during a phone interview. “It was a perfect fit when I went out there.”
Madison, 18, long ago realized that she wanted to pursue a career in nursing. After logging more than 250 hours as a volunteer at Palomar Hospital, Madison’s calling became evident.
“I knew after working that much and still loving it, that’s what I should go into,” she said.
Madison’s other passion is athletics, and she possesses a resume that reflects her ability. Growing up in Poway, Madison played on basketball and softball travel teams; is a two-time qualifier for CIF in discus at Poway High; is a record-setting power lifter; and is accomplished at jujutsu. A university even recruited Madison for its rugby team though she’s never played the sport.
Both of Madison’s parents encouraged her and her two brothers to participate in numerous activities.
“We have this attitude that we expose our kids to as many things as possible, whether it be sports or musical or whatever, then they can weed them out,” said Madison’s father Guy James.
A number of schools recruited Madison to play softball, but she was told she couldn’t commit the hours needed to both play the sport and pursue nursing. If would have to be one or the other.
“I’m not going to give up my major to play four years of a sport that you can’t really do anything with after that,” Madison said.
Understanding that there are plenty of scholarships available in women’s crew, and possibly one of those opportunities might be at a school that will let her balance nursing and rowing, Madison joined the San Diego Rowing Club last year.
Madison started from scratch with the club. The first time she sat in a shell, she feared it was going to flip over. She practiced two-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week, driving an hour each way after school to the rowing facility at Mission Bay.
“She’s a sassy little redhead,” said Susan Francia, a two-time Olympic rowing champion and Madison’s coach. “She was a huge force on the team. It was really great to work with her. I only coached her for a year, but she’s made some really huge strides in rowing. It’s been fun to watch that progress.
“Rowing is really a sport about testing yourself and your limits and how much you’re willing to deal with pain,” Francis added. “It was just really awesome to watch her progress technically and really push her limits.”
After picking up the sport quickly, it became time to find a university where Madison could pursue both rowing and nursing with equal commitment.
That’s where West Virginia University came in. Madison and the WVU coaches connected through a rowing website, and Madison visited the campus in Morgantown this last February. Despite the freezing temperatures, Madison fell in love with the campus, the coaches and the team, a program competing in the Big 12 Conference at the Division I level. Plus, WVU has a respected nursing program.
Her father said he was impressed with both the campus and the city.
“I was very excited,” Guy said. “The more I learn about West Virginia, the more impressed I am.”
Good thing, because Madison has committed to be a Mountaineer.
“It was a little more an on-my-own decision,” Madison said. “They knew when I got back from that visit I that loved it. After visiting some other schools, it was the right choice.”
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