UNION CITY – Amongst a gym full of family and friends Mississinawa Valley senior Judah Ben Winchester signed a letter of intent to attend Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).
Judah is the only athlete in school history to reach the state finals in swimming and did so for three straight years and if not for a battle with covid it very well could have been all 4 years.
His battle with covid took him out his freshman year and it would turn out to be a long road to recovery that even to this day he battles some of the after affects … which makes it even more impressive that he was able to regain his strength to be a competitive swimmer on such a big stage considering he is a distance swimmer that requires lots of stamina.
“He’s overcame a lot, you know, he went to state three times in swimming, and it could have been a fourth, if not the for the long term effects from COVID and those are things he’s still dealing with, even today where many other kids might have given up, he forged ahead and that has made his mother and I very proud of him,” Jeffery Winchester said.
Swimming is very important to Judah Ben and his family who have made a significant investment of time and money over the years to allow him to follow his interest. Judah’s dad is Mississinawa Valley School Superintendent Jeffrey Winchester, and his mother Larissa Winchester were both very emotional in thanking the many families and friends who attended his signing.
But swimming wasn’t the most important determining factor in his decision to attend FIT … in fact it was the advice of his father that he followed to narrow down his choices.
“Obviously Judah Ben has swam competitively since he was seven and with steady progress and getting better and more competitive every year it appeared he had the potential to swim in college,” Jeffery said.
“I said, son, if you’re going to swim in college, I’ll support that, and I think that’s great, but I want you to think southeastern United States,” Winchester stated.
“About a year and half ago, my dad asked me to make a list of all the colleges I liked and where I wanted to go, so I made a list of my top 10 choices and at the time, Florida Tech was nice, but it was number nine on the list. I did more digging and Dad did some digging and the more we researched the higher and higher on the list it went,” Judah Ben commented.
Initially the attraction to FIT for Judah Ben was their amazing aerospace engineering programs which moved the school up in his eyes and then he began to research their swimming program and in particular one that suited his interest.
“One of my personal goals was to make an international distance program which goes overseas to swim in open waters where we actually swim and train in the ocean a few days each week which is motivating to me. I’ve always been a distance swimmer in the pool but the longest event you can do is the mile. But when you go on the open water, they have this thing called the marathon swim and it’s actually 10 kilometers long, essentially a four-hour swim and I’m really excited about that challenge,” Winchester said.
After learning about the academic and swimming program it was apparent FIT was moving up on his list.
“Yea it finally got to number one and my list and so I decided to get in contact with their coaches and they showed interest, so we set up an official visit,” Judah Ben commented.
“I asked Judah going into his junior year to make up a list of schools and he sent me the list as I started looking it over as I’d never heard of the Florida Institute of Technology, so I went to the website and thought this looks alright, a great location in Florida plus he wants to major in aerospace engineering. There is Kennedy Space Center and aerospace and defense contractors all over the area, so we were kind of excited for him. Then we went for a visit in March of this year when we had the opportunity to meet with the coaches and he loved it,” Jeffrey said.
The visit was a success for all involved.
“At the end of our official visit, they’re like, we want you, so it was a mix between academics and the swimming, which is amazing, about 90% of their swimmers are faster than DI athletes. My dad actually looked at me and said, you’d be an idiot not to go here, so everything was just kind of falling into place,” Judah Ben exclaimed.
I asked Judah if there was extra motivation for his dad and mom for him to go there especially since the school was located in Melbourne, Florida which would be rather enticing to visit in the winter.
“My father always told me to go east of the Mississippi and preferably south and Florida fits all of those criteria and Florida Tech is only about an hour away from Disneyworld, NASA and close to the beach so I’m sure all that was a factor,” Judah chuckled.
“Obviously, his mother and I are going to go watch him swim and of course it gets cold here in Ohio, so I’m really pleased he didn’t go to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin or the Dakotas because we surely prefer to go someplace warmer, so we are tickled for him and for us,” Jeffrey smiled.
At the end of the day swimming is just a by-product of who Judah Ben Winchester is, and it’s an opportunity for him to set himself up for his future in a great aerospace and engineering program.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity, and I want to get some experience in the aerospace world and eventually I’d like to start my own company manufacturing the next generation of hydrogen aircraft and rockets,” Judah Ben concluded.