ANNAPOLIS, MD -- Chris Bondarowicz, in his third year at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis after a standout career at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, will be going to Omaha in June to compete at the US Olympic Trials in swimming.
Bondarowicz qualified in the 200m Breaststroke event after winning the event with a 2:17.33 time at the Navy Long Course Invitational in Annapolis on Friday. The Olympic Trials qualifying time for the event is 2:17.89. Friday's meet was a special long course invitational that followed the annual Army-Navy Swim Meet on Thursday where the Midshipmen crushed Army 194-106
Bondarowicz took a chance at the meet when he decided to bypass finals in the 100m Breaststroke race, where he was also in striking distance for another Olympic Trials cut, to focus on the 200m event.
"It was a tough decision. Before the meet, our plan had been to race the 100 in the morning and the 200 at night. But after my 100 in the morning, I thought my best chance was in the 100. When I brought it up to my coaches, they recommended sticking to our original plan."
Well, the gamble did pay off as Bondarowicz came out strong on the first leg of the 200 race and seemed to pick up strength with each turn.The excitement continued to build as he came down the homestretch on the final leg. His teammates rushed to the finish line to cheer him on and to help him make that final push to the wall. As his teammates cheered, he could sense their excitement and knew that he earned the cut before he can even glance up at the scoreboard.
"It was an amazing feeling. Before I could even look at the board, my teammates were high-fiving me and going insane. Throughout the race they were giving the pool energy and helping keep me on pace. I owe a lot to those guys."
Bondarowicz finished his high school career as a First-Team All-State swimmer after winning the New Jersey Meet of Champions as a senior in 2017, after coming in second the year before. He was a three time Scholastic All-American as well. Bondarowicz swam began swimming for FSPY in 9th grade and over his four-year career managed to win the multiple YMCA state championships in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events and in the 200 IM - including setting the YMCA state record in the 200 event as a senior. He placed as high as second place at the 2016 YMCA Long Course Nationals and earned medals at multiple YMCA Short Course Nationals.
In college, Bondarowicz continued his successful run earning multiple medals at the Patriot League Swim & Dive Championships as both a freshman and sophomore. He won his first college race as a freshman at the 2017 Army-Navy meet and followed it up in 2018 with a dramatic come-from-behind win by just 0.01 of a second - ahead of a three-way tie for second place.
While this is Bondarowciz's first Olympic Trials cut, it will not be his first time in the pool with Olympians. He swam against Olympic Gold Medalist Kevin Cordes at the 2016 AT&T Winter Nationals in Atlanta and against multiple Olympic swimmers at the Arena Pro Series event last April in Richmond, Virginia.
How does it feel to make the Olympic trials?
"It's surreal. Making trials has been a goal of mine since the 2015-2016 season. I came up short that year, and I was disappointed. When the cuts came out last year, we as a team made it our goal to send as many people as possible to Omaha. Making Trials is as much about the individual as it is about the team. Having 40 guys training with the same mentality is incredible. We push each other day in and day out to be the best."
How long was it your goal?
"It's been a goal of mine to make this meet since 2015-2016."
When did you realize that the dream could indeed become reality?
"I realized it would become a reality when the team collectively made the decision that we were going to Omaha. You can't make these high level meets on your own. It takes a team training together, reminding each other of why we're there."
The YMCA Long Island meet was this weekend. Do you miss those competitions?
"Absolutely. For me, Long Island was where everything started, so it’ll always be special. Even as I’ve gone on to compete a bigger meets against some remarkable competition, Long Island has remained a special meet for me."
What is the Army-Navy swim meet like?
"The Army-Navy swim meet is the highest energy meet I've ever been to. When it's at Navy, it was awesome to see a standing-room only crowd. Other Mids were waving signs, cheering, and screaming. It's a crazy atmosphere. When you are at Navy, your whole season revolves around Army, so it has been a great feeling to have won the meet every year I have been here."
What are your thoughts on Navy's rout of Army football this weekend?
"I loved it. Football has had an incredible season, and they couldn't have capped it off any better."
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