Julia McClure vividly remembers the day two years ago that her former three-sport teammate Danielle Roesing was presented with the Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year.
“When Danielle got it, I said, ‘Well, if she can get it, then maybe I can get it when it’s my turn,’” McClure said. “It gave me a sense of motivation.”
However, realistically, the ball was already in motion for McClure to earn the 2014-2015 Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year. By the time Roesing claimed her award two years ago, McClure was well on her way to earning her own.
By then, McClure was already established as a three-sport superstar in volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. All she needed to do was to keep status quo and the top female athlete in Hudson County was all hers.
But McClure did more than just remain on course. She went on to dominate her respective fields of play.
All McClure did was lead her respective teams to heights that hadn’t been attained in a while and in some cases ever.
In the case of volleyball, McClure became the school’s all-time kill leader, helping the Patriots to win the NJSIAA Group I state championship last November. It was the 19th state title in the school’s history, but the first one since 2006. McClure had exactly 1,400 kills in her career and collected 511 kills, 266 digs and 145 service points her senior year.
In the case of softball, McClure helped to lead the Patriots to the school’s first-ever Hudson County and first-ever NJSIAA North 2, Group I state titles in 2013, playing a huge role in the success of that championship squad. She batted .400 with nine homers and 21 RBI last spring.
And in basketball, McClure helped to guide the Patriots to the school’s first-ever Hudson County championship last February. She eventually scored 1,494 points and grabbed 1,141rebounds, the top rebound total in school history. She averaged 13.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the county champs.
Think about that one. McClure merely won major championships – not even adding the countless league titles Secaucus won – in all three sports she played in. Coincidence? We think not.
McClure, who is headed to Wagner College on a basketball scholarship, started her athletic career ironically by playing Secaucus recreation soccer.
“I started with soccer when I was about five or six [years old],” McClure said. “I also did ballet and dance, but I was horrible. I never made it to a recital. I remember when I was little I had to choose between soccer and dance.”
At the time, McClure chose soccer, which remained a part of her life through grade school. In third grade, she also picked up basketball, a sport she almost didn’t play because of her soccer and dance schedule.
“I didn’t know if I had enough time to do all three,” McClure said. “But I started playing basketball and it stole my heart.”
Softball was next to follow, with McClure picking up a bat and glove for the first time at age 8.
“I never played baseball,” McClure said. “I was a little confused at first, but incredibly, I never struggled in any of the sports. Sure, you have your flaws, but I was hitting home runs when the coaches were pitching to me. I believe because of it, I always played up a level.”
And then, finally there was volleyball, which occurred as a fluke.
“I thought I would eventually go to college for soccer,” said McClure, who was a fine midfielder during her soccer days. “In middle school, I was a four-sport athlete. I played volleyball and soccer at the same time and didn’t have to make a decision about one or the other. The soccer team all thought I was going to be good.”
As fate had it, on the night before both the Secaucus soccer and volleyball teams began workouts, McClure happened to stumble into Secaucus head volleyball coach Sheila Rivera during a leisurely walk.
“I walked up to her and told her that I didn’t know what I was doing in volleyball,” McClure said. “She said that she would teach me. That meant a lot to me. It was a good decision.”
“She was walking on my side of town,” Rivera said. “For some reason, I was walking with my family and we were just passing Julia. When she came up to me, I said, ‘OK, we’ll see you tomorrow and just kept walking.’ But I knew she had something left to say. When she said she didn’t think she could play, I told her that it was my job to teach her. The next day, there’s Julia. It was fate. I just happened to be walking that night. I wasn’t even close to her home. I guess it was just meant to be.”
Rivera adored what McClure meant to her program.
“She was phenomenal,” Rivera said. “She just kept getting better and better every year. She learned to contribute in every aspect of the game. By her senior year, she was helping and teaching the younger kids. It was just a matter of maturity. She was very respectful and she listened. She was also a team player. She was always talking about the team first.”
Secaucus head basketball coach John Sterling knew that he had a gem when McClure entered the program.
“She was very good as a freshman, because she was strong and aggressive,” Sterling said. “At first, she was a lot like a bull in a china shop, because I think she wanted to prove early how good she was. We had to find ways to funnel her energy a little bit.”
During McClure’s tenure, she ended up playing four of the five positions on the floor and might have been able to play point guard if the Patriots didn’t already have another standout in Andie Lennon (headed to Caldwell College in the fall).
“I think that’s part of what makes Julia special,” Sterling said. “She could play all those spots on the floor and never complain. She’s as good of any girl I’ve ever coached and she’s definitely the best rebounder I ever had. She was tremendous on the boards, getting the ball and making outlet passes. To put up the numbers she had rebounding, you would think she was six feet tall and not 5-7.”
Sterling was asked what put McClure a step above the rest.
“She earned everything by being a hard worker,” Sterling said. “She put in the physical hard work and had the drive that only a few have. She wanted to be a [NCAA] Division I player.”
Sure enough, McClure became the first-ever Secaucus girl to earn a Division I scholarship, another milestone in her career.
“It’s impossible to try to replace her,” Sterling said. “I never had a girl who did all the things she did. She’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid. I couldn’t replace her with three kids. She’s bright, beautiful and funny, the whole package.”
Secaucus head softball coach Amanda Jones marvels at McClure’s talents.
“I think a good amount of what she does is on pure athleticism,” Jones said. “It’s amazing what she was able to do. She’s the type of athlete that you want to coach and a pleasure to coach someone like that. She was a great leader in all three of her sports. Not only was she a tremendous athlete, but she made everyone around her better. She pushed herself to be better and that makes everyone else improve. She had such a great attitude and was funny and made things fun. I’m going to miss her a lot.”
McClure was asked if could fathom all she accomplished in her career.
“It’s magnificent,” McClure said. “I couldn’t explain to anyone how it all happened. It just happened. I can’t comprehend it. It is mind blowing, but at the same time, it shows what hard work and effort can do. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without working hard. I’m really fortunate to have this happen to me.”
McClure becomes the seventh Secaucus girl to earn the Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year, which goes to the top athlete who participates in more than one varsity sport. Of the 15 female athletes to ever receive the award, seven now have come from the same school. It’s beyond remarkable.
“It’s awesome,” McClure said. “Even though we’re a small school, we work hard. It’s proof that you can get noticed anywhere. It’s pretty darn cool. I like it.”
McClure now heads off to Wagner, where she will play only one sport, her true love of basketball.
“It’s indescribable how I feel now,” McClure said. “I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous. I’m the only incoming freshman on the team. I know I have to step up my game.”
Knowing how much McClure thrived at Secaucus with three sports, chances are she’ll do just fine playing just one in college.
HUDSON REPORTER FEMALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
1994-1995-Cheri Selby, St. Dominic Academy
2000-2001-Tiffany Aciz, Secaucus
2003-2004-Mercedes Nunez, Memorial
2004-2005-Christine Capetola, St. Dominic Academy
2005-2006-Nicole Degenhardt, Secaucus
2006-2007-Leslie Njoku, McNair Academic & Cory Roesing, Secaucus
2007-2008-Jenna Totaro, Secaucus
2008-2009-Jennifer Mateo, Union City
2009-2010-Ashley Barron, Hoboken
2010-2011-Shannon Waters, Secaucus
2011-2012-Sybil Lynch, Hoboken
2012-2013-Danielle Roesing, Secaucus
2013-2014- Carolina Herrera, North Bergen
2014-2015-Julia McClure, Secaucus