It’s a choice that elite college swimmers often face at the end of their careers – keep swimming and try for the Olympics or get on with life.
For most, who perhaps aren’t sure of their post-graduate options, it’s not a difficult decision to chase Olympic glory. For Georgia Tech swimmer Andrew Kosic, there’s a little more gray.
“Andrew’s a very, very smart person, and he’s going to make a lot of money in the real world,” Tech coach Courtney Shealy-Hart said.
The decision making begins in earnest this week, at the ACC championship beginning Wednesday at Tech’s Aquatic Center. Kosic, a senior from West Chester, Pa., will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyles and a third event yet to be determined. He will also swim four relays. He has a real chance to become just the 11th Tech men’s swimmer to win an ACC title.
“It will not be easy,” Shealy-Hart said. However, “I absolutely think he can do it.”
Said Kosic of earning a title, “That’d be a pretty cool thing.”
Tech is hoping to improve upon its seventh-place finish at last year’s ACC meet.
“I think we’ve got some younger guys that are going to step up and help fill some holes from last year,” Kosic said.
Kosic is also hoping to earn automatic qualifying times for the NCAA championship, held at the end of March at Iowa. Kosic finished 15th in the 50 free last year, earning All-American status. He is the school record holder in the 50 and 100 freestyles and 100 backstroke.
Following the ACC meet, he’ll swim for a spot in the U.S. Olympic trials in a time trial Sunday at Tech. Swimmers can only qualify for the trials with times swum in a 50-meter pool, as opposed to the 25-yard length used for NCAA competition, so Tech will reconfigure its pool to allow ACC swimmers a shot at qualifying. Shealy-Hart expects Kosic to easily meet the standards in the 50 (23.29 seconds) and 100 freestyles (50.69). Kosic, who also swam at the 2012 trials, may attempt to qualify in another event, possibly the 100 butterfly or backstroke.
That and his performance at the NCAA meet should give him a better sense of his chances to make the U.S. team at the Olympic trials next summer.
“If I go really fast, that’d probably give me extra motivation to see how high I can place at the trials,” he said.
However, as Shealy-Hart noted, another opportunity awaits him. Kosic will graduate in May with a degree in chemical engineering. He’ll finish in four years and holds a 3.7 GPA despite his rigorous training schedule. During the season, Kosic and his teammates rise early for a 90-minute morning practice and follow it up with two more hours in the afternoon.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I don’t have much free time.”
He played down his classwork, saying he doesn’t chemical engineering is that hard.
“I think, looking at something like electrical engineering or computer science, that looks like another language to me,” Kosic said.
He has a job offer on the table from Marathon Petroleum, where he interned last summer in Detroit while training on his own. According to the website Payscale, a salary database, the average starting salary for chemical engineering last year was $68,200.
Swimming fast at the ACC meet and NCAA championships will make the decision more difficult. Making the U.S. Olympic team would not be easy, but without school, he would be able to devote his full attention to training.
“The Olympic team always has a few surprises,” Shealy-Hart said. “I think he has that ability if he puts his mind to it.”
It casts a bit more weight on his upcoming swims. He will be fully rested for the meet and is counting on seeing drops in his times.
“I think I’m on track,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to tell.”
He’ll know a lot more by Sunday.