March 10, 2005
By Scott MacDonald
Vesna Stojanovska, a two-time Olympian (2000 & ’04) first set foot on Georgia Tech’s campus last fall and made a name for herself right away. In her first competitive season for the Yellow Jackets, she garnered All-America honors at the 2004 Women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships with a 10th-place finish in the 200-meter butterfly. In doing so, the frosh led the Yellow Jackets to a 31st-place finish in just their third year of existence.
“Last year I was really comfortable at the NCAA meet because we were swimming meters,” said Stojanovska. “That was what I grew up swimming and now we will be swimming yards and I’m not as experienced at that, although it’s not that different.”
At the 2004 Women’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, Stojanovska finished in the top eight in the 200-, 500-yard freestyle events and the 200 fly after a severe illness had her in the hospital the night before the competition. This season, she took it a step further.
The Skopje, Macedonia, native broke five school records at the 2005 Women’s ACC Championships, hosted in the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Feb. 16-19, and became the first women’s ACC champion in the 200 fly. She clocked a NCAA `B’ cut time of 1:59.27 to set a new school record.
“Having an ACC champion is always special,” said head coach Seth Baron. “This was extra special, since it was at home and it was the first for our women’s program. For a program that is only four years old, having an ACC champion brings recognition to your program and exemplifies our commitment to the future of this program.”
Stojanovska began the ACC meet by setting a new school record in the 200 free with a leadoff split of 1:48.88 on the 800 free relay team. The team set a new school record with a NCAA `B’ standard time of 7:24.06 on Wednesday night.
On Thursday evening, Stojanovska logged a fifth-place finish in the 500 free with a school record time of 4:47.36, breaking her school record from a year ago. That time was the second NCAA `B’ cut she posted at the meet.
Friday night was another record-setting session for Stojanovska as she improved on her school record in the 200 free with a NCAA `B’ cut time of 1:47.67, finishing in second place. That finish earned her All-ACC honors for the first time in her career. She became just the second Tech women’s swimmer to earn such accolades [Anna Saum, 2002]. She also swam the final leg of the 400 medley relay team that set a new school mark with a time of 3:48.63.
“I was actually expecting to win the 200 free heading into the meet,” said Stojanovska. “I knew who I had to beat and what I expected of myself, it just didn’t happen.”
Then she stood in the spotlight in the final race of the evening on Friday night. Stojanovska rallied from behind in the preliminaries of the event in the morning session to claim first place in the 200 fly. The finals was a different story as Stojanovska led for most of the way and out-touched Florida State’s Lindsay Kenny to claim her first ACC crown.
“It was great to have all my teammates there to cheer me on and congratulate me after I got out of the water,” said Stojanovska. “They had a lot to do with me winning that race.”
With a breath still remaining in her tired body, Stojanovska then anchored the 400 free relay team with a relay split time of 50.93 (100 free) to lead the Jackets to another school record with a time of 3:26.47. She finished the meet with two all-conference accolades and led the women to a sixth-place finish, scoring a program-best 286.5 points and finishing in sixth place.
“Her performance ranks pretty high for our team – men or women,” said Baron about Stojanovska at the ACC Championships. “She was second in the 200 free and fifth in the 500 free, only Shilo Ayalon [2003 graduate and current graduate assistant] has had a better overall championship.”
Her time in the 200 fly would get her an invitation to her second straight NCAA Championships. Stojanovska will compete in the 200 free, 500 free and 200 fly at the national championships in West Lafayette, Ind., March 17-19.
“It will be a little bit tougher this year,” said Stojanovska about finishing higher at NCAAs. “I’d like to at least repeat my performance from last season.”
According to coach Baron, the meet will be much faster from a year ago. “She will have to be at her best to repeat and/or improve on her performance. In addition to s
coring in the 200 Fly, we would love to see her score in another event, maybe the 200 or 500 free.”