Leaving home to travel across the state or country is nothing new for athletes.
Some athletes, however, travel a little further than most.
Some, like Luke Stirton, a member of Ohio State’s men’s swimming team, cross half the globe to pursue their passion. Stirton hails all the way from Sydney, Australia.
How Stirton was recruited by OSU and why he chose the Buckeyes is simple. Stirton’s club swim coach, Rick Curl, is an OSU alumnus and he called OSU men’s coach Bill Wadley.
Wadley received the call from Curl, who said Stirton was “a good, hard worker and would fit in very well,” Wadley said.
Even with a new swimming facility and the team’s recent success, Stirton said he had other reasons for coming to OSU.
“What really drew me here was the fact I had George [Markovic] here,” Stirton said.
Three years ago, OSU acquired Australian swimmer George Markovic, whose friendship with Stirton held even across the Pacific. Markovic is now a junior on the team.
Markovic said that he has really improved since coming to America, thanks in part to the difference in competitive attitudes in the U.S. compared to Australia. He said the focus on the individual in Australia held him back.
One of the challenges Stirton has had to face at OSU is adjusting to college life. He said at first it was hard settling into a new way of life and balancing school and athletics. The one thing that has stayed the same for him is swimming.
Swimming in America is competitively similar to swimming in Australia, he said. The difference is out of the water.
“Swimming is more ingrained in the Australian culture than here,” Stirton said. “It’s more of a way life in Australia.”
That’s not to say Stirton has avoided hardships in the water.
“It was shocking training with guys who are bigger and stronger than I am,” he said. He added that he came from a program where he was one of the oldest on the team.
Along with swimming with bigger guys, Stirton has had to get used to being just one of the guys and not the big man on campus.
Wadley said Stirton has had to occasionally take a step back and put things in perspective.
“He has done really well,” Markovic said. “He swam a time I didn’t think he would do until his senior year.”
In three events this year, Stirton has finished with a top-five time on the team. Wadley has credited this success to a strong work ethic.
“He is an extremely competitive young man,” Wadley said. “If you put somebody good next to him, he is a racer.”
When asked where Stirton could be in a few years, Wadley was not shy about discussing his potential.
“I think he has a chance to become an OSU record holder and leave a lasting impact.”