When a recruit was visiting on a Tuesday night in the spring of 2016, Ana Henderson volunteered to host the recruit. It's a rarity to have someone volunteer, especially on a week night.
Henderson had looked up the recruit, Emily Ortner, on Facebook and saw they had a multitude of common friends. The reason Henderson knew of Ortner was they grew up within 15 miles of each other in California, Danville and Concord, respectively.
Henderson and Ortner are both juniors, but took different paths to come to Athens. Henderson came to Ohio straight out of high school while Ortner spent a year at the University of North Dakota before transferring to Ohio.
Having another swimmer on team from California was really enticing for Henderson, and after spending time together, she wanted Ortner to join her in Athens. They also would be swimming on the same club swim team that summer after each of their teams merged.
“We talked a lot and was like 'okay it would be really nice to have someone else from California here' and I was like 'please come here' and here we are," Henderson said.
They can relate with each other about the struggles they uniquely deal with of being away from their families for long stretches of time. Both say they have found a family with the swim and dive team that supports them while their families are far away.
For both of them, the support from the team has really helped them. They both the choice individually to be far enough away from their families, but they also must plan ahead about when to come visit their children.
"I definitely rely on the girls here a lot for support,” Ortner said. “I wanted to go somewhere far away, I wanted to be independent and I think that I found a really good support system with the team.”
The six days the team has off during winter break is the only time Ortner goes home during the school year. Her parents come during the Mid-American Conference Championships. Henderson sees her family more often and calls her mom every day, but still not as much as someone from nearby would see their family.
“I mean going home is definitely a big part of getting through it, just knowing that I get to go back home and see my family,” Henderson said.
Being from near each other has an added benefit. They are able to travel together on the long trips back to California, which Henderson enjoys after traveling alone her freshman year.
They can relate to the other in the experiences that they had growing up, which differ from their teammates and occasionally everyone talks about what is difference along with how theirs is the best.
“I get someone who understands how amazing In-N-Out is, its literally the best,” Ortner said.