From community college to A-10 Championships, first-year Colonial looks for top finish

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Erica Christian | Photo Editor

Junior Goran Koprivnjak races in a butterfly event during the swim team's home meet against Bucknell this past fall.

Junior Goran Koprivnjak started swimming just as a hobby, but he now finds himself as the best 200-yard butterfly swimmer in the Atlantic 10.

The first-year Colonial, a Croatia native, hoped to have this kind of opportunity and recognition two years ago when applying to schools in the U.S. But after two years competing in community college, he’s relishing the moment that now awaits him at the Division I level.

His Iowa junior college team “had dual meets and national meets in the end, but it’s not as competitive,” Koprivnjak said. “This is definitely a huge difference.”

Koprivnjak led the relay team that broke one school record Wednesday and tied another. In the 800-yard relay, he helped secure a record-breaking time of 6:35.92 with the help of freshman Liam Huffman, sophomore Jordan Sharples and rookie Bogdan Balteanu.

The team was in sixth place after day one of the meet Wednesday.

Back in Croatia, Koprivnjak’s high school did not offer competitive sports, so he was forced to fill those gaps solely at the club level. He competed at multiple national competitions in his home country, taking home three top-three finishes at the Croatian Nationals as a high school junior.

Not surprisingly, those wins came in butterfly and individual medley events – Koprivnjak’s specialties at GW.

The business administration major has made a huge splash in his first year, arguably the team’s most consistent male swimmer. Koprivnjak has won the 200-yard butterfly in all of GW’s three meets in 2014, with his 1:50.76 time from last fall still leading the A-10.

In a narrow loss to Georgetown, he almost singlehandedly brought home the victory, grabbing four wins on the day – including the 100-yard fly and the 200-yard IM.

For a while, though, it was unclear if Koprivnjak would even get a chance to compete in the U.S. He contacted swimming programs throughout the country, searching for anyone that would offer him a spot.

Only one returned his emails: Iowa Central Community College.

“I decided to give it a shot,” Koprivnjak said. “It’s a community college, so it’s a lot different from what we have here. It was smaller and we didn’t have the best conditions for training, but I had a good coach.”

Still, Koprivnjak made an impact in his two years in the midwest. At the National Junior College Athletic Association Championships in 2012 and 2013, he continued to place his name on the winner’s podium, finishing as high as second in the 200-yard fly, third in the 200-yard IM and third in the 400-yard IM.

“It was a good springboard for the upcoming two years,” Koprivnjak concluded.

But when the time came, Koprivnjak knew he needed to leave Iowa for intensified athletic and academic pursuits. Since arriving in Foggy Bottom, the intense training – in the pool and the weight room – has been transformative, he said.

“I talked to the coaches,” he continued, detailing the events that sealed his fate as a Colonial. “This is a school where I can actually help out the team – it’s not just like I’m one of the other guys. I want to be wherever I can make a difference.”

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