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#TGW: Nothing To Lose

Oct. 23, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Andrew Kosic tends to operate in linear, engineer-like fashion, but he’s been swimming so fast so early in the college season that he may be complicating his future to where he might have to do some non-linear work.

You should know that this is all good stuff, with the golden word “Olympics” in the middle of it, yet this equation is fuzzy around its edges.

Before the season even began, the senior from West Chester, Pa., outside of Philadelphia held four school records (50 freestyle, 19.42; 100 free, 42.84; 100 back, 47.53; 800 free medley, 6:23.68) and his name litters the Georgia Tech record book with a long list of top-five times in a wide variety of events.

So he was no pollywog to being with.

All of those school marks, and his personal bests, were set in either previous ACC or NCAA meets because that’s when swimmers almost always peak by way of having tapered, or trimmed, their workloads leading up to the big meets.

In three meets this fall, however, he’s approached personal bests at a time of year when swimmers aren’t typically so fresh and fast without having tapered.

Kosic’s already gone 44.10 seconds in the 100 freestyle, the fifth-best time among NCAA swimmers so far, 20.01 in the 50 free (sixth) and 1:38.41 in the 200 free (10th) as the Jackets (3-1, 1-0 ACC) have won three straight meets.

His career bests in those events are 42.84, 19.42 and 1:35.65 (second-best in school history), respectively.

So what’s up with the water jet?

“It’s his senior year; he has nothing to lose,” Tech head coach Courtney Shealy Hart said the other day as the Yellow Jackets were preparing for Saturday morning’s home meet with Florida State and NC State. “He’s a fast kid who has a great amount of talent, and this will probably be it for Andrew.

“It’s great for him, great for the team and it’s fun to see.”

This will probably be it for Andrew?

He finished 15th last year at the NCAAs in his signature event, the 50 free, making the B final.

That might not have looked like the work of an Olympic prospect, but positioned Kosic in the margins of such a conversation, and left him an All-American.

But this torpedo business that’s going on this fall might create additional opportunities downstream if it continues, particularly if Kosic’s times drop as they should be expected to next spring once he tapers for ACCs and NCAAs.

Truth is, the 6-foot-3 Kosic already has and will likely continue to have options.

He’ll graduate in May with a degree in chemical engineering, and the three-time ACC All-Academic team member has a job lined up with Marathon Petroleum. He’ll work at a refinery in Michigan in, “process engineering, looking over different units and making sure they’re running optimally.”

 So, the choices: graduate and go into the grind of training solo while living humbly for another year or so with the goal – but no guarantee — of making the Olympic team, or turn pro[fessional] with the very real promise of making bona-fide money and leaving the pool and all the wacky training schedules behind.

In a way, this is a family affair. Kosic’s mother, Pamela, swam for West Chester University. His sisters both swam or swim competitively. Some cousins swam collegiately. His grandfather, Wes Mock, was a swim coach at UNLV and Hawai’i.

Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

“It’s definitely my last year of collegiate swimming,” Kosic said with an engineer’s precision. “With the Trials being in 2016 . . . I haven’t made any decisions yet.

“Those are the two easiest, most straight-forward choices or I could go into the professional world and train nights and weekends by myself.”

Ah, a merger of both worlds!

There’s a concept that leaves behind a question: how has Kosic between last spring and this fall gone from a really good swimmer to a potentially great one with reason to consider an Olympic dream?

First, he agrees with his coach about his senior year offering a psychological push.

Shealy Hart also cites the presence of assistant coach Eric Stefanski, a sprint specialist who joined the program before Kosic’s junior year. Stefanski enjoyed considerable success previously as an assistant at North Carolina, where Tar Heel sprinters won multiple ACC individual titles.

Add the facts that Stefanski took a B.S. in psychology from Pitt, and a Master’s in kinesiology with an emphasis in sports psychology from Georgia Southern.

Then, consider that Stefanski has been around long enough now to sink in and seep into the Tech culture, so to speak, and to impact student-athletes in and out of the pool.

Finally, combine all of this with changes in training methods that have increased everybody’s intensity, throw in Shealy Hart’s contention that the swimmers have bonded big-time to lift one another through training and competition, and it all adds up to a re-furbished school of swimmers with Kosic on point.

“I really do have nothing to lose. I’m just kind of laying it all out there, racing,” he said. “Also, the team has put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, and in the early part of the year. We have some young guys who’ve come in and pushed me. We all kind of push each other.

“Since I’ve been here this is definitely the year that I felt that the team is on the same page, moving toward the same goals . . . I think everybody has bought into the program. We have each other’s backs and push each other every day. We hold each other accountable both in training and at meets.”

Kosic has had help triggering the Jackets.

Freshman Brian Woodbury, a backstroke specialist, is standing out, and Nico van Duijn, Andrew Chetcuti, Taylor Wilson and Youssef Hammoud are pitching in as sprinters. Mark Sarman, Ben Southern, Yuval Safra and Elliott Brockelbank are scoring as well, and divers Brad Homza and Omar Eteiba are solid.

Shealy Hart, whose women’s squad (3-3, 1-1) will also compete Saturday morning at Tech, takes stock in chemistry.

“This is the first year that [the men] have actually called themselves brothers,” she said. “I think they’re swimming more for their team vs. themselves. Not only have we stepped up our intensity in training, but we’ve stepped up our mental training.

“They know what it takes to be a Division I athlete because there are sacrifices that need to be made, and the results are coming.”

And if certain results keep coming, and improving, Kosic will have some thinking to do next spring/summer.

Shealy Hart, who was incredibly accomplished as a swimmer at Georgia while helping the Bulldogs to NCAA championships in 1999 and 2000 before winning two gold medals in relays at the 2000 Olympic Games, has an idea.

“I would like to see him go for the Olympic Trials. He’ll have no problem getting the [time] cuts [to qualify for Trials],” the coach said. “I’ll certainly encourage him. My philosophy is he would train another year for the Olympic team, which would be an amazing experience.

“He would not have any regrets to look back on, but that’s his decision. We’ll support him in whatever he does.”

Should the speed wave continue, Kosic will give it all some thought.

“I don’t really have a firm idea yet,” he said of the Olympic decision. “I’m just going to see how this season turns out, what my times are. I’d definitely like to improve all my times see how that plays in the NCAAs and ACC championship.”

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