Catholic University junior swimmer Chris Crafa died unexpectedly this week. The team announced and mourned his loss in a press release Thursday.
The 20-year-old Crafa died of a “sudden cardiac event” on January 1. The school says Crafa was near his home in Garden City, New York.
Crafa was a three-year member of the Catholic University swim team, making the podium at the Landmark Conference Championships in each of his first two seasons. Crafa was studying mechanical engineering.
The full Catholic University press release is below:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chris Crafa, a junior mechanical engineering major and member of the men’s swimming and diving team at Catholic University, died of a sudden cardiac event on January 1 near his home in Garden City, New York. He was 20 years old.
“We are devastated by the loss of Chris. He was fun, funny, and great to be around,” said head coach Paul Waas. “He had the biggest heart in the world, definitely in the way he competed and trained, but even more so in the generous way he spread joy and laughter to everyone around him. His teammates loved him and I loved coaching him. We already miss him terribly.”
Crafa was in the midst of his third season on the men’s swimming team, having most recently competed at the Yellow Jacket Invitational on December 1. Catholic won back-to-back Landmark Conference championships during his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018.
At last year’s conference championships, Crafa set three personal bests, finishing fifth in the 400-yard individual medley and eighth in the 200-yard backstroke. He also found himself on the podium three times as a freshman in 2017, finishing fourth in the 200 back, seventh in the 100 back and eighth in the 200 IM.
“From all accounts, Chris was a tremendous young man – smart, inquisitive, funny, kind and filled with a team-first mentality and spirit,” commented Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Sean Sullivan. “His warmth, ability to make others feel valued, and his loyalty to teammates and coaches alike have been a significant part of the joy you can see within our swimming and diving program.”
Crafa’s family will be holding a wake at Fairchild Sons in his hometown of Garden City, N.Y. from 2-4 p.m., and 7-9 p.m., on Friday, January 4. They will be holding Mass at Church of St. Joseph, Garden City at 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, January 5.
There will also be a Mass for Chris at St. Vincent de Paul Chapel in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, January 13 at 9 p.m.
Crafa is survived by his father, Joe; mother, Lorilee; and three brothers, James, and triplets, John and Thomas.
The Crafa family has plans to establish an award to be presented annually to a swimmer from Garden City High School and Catholic University who demonstrates the qualities that Chris displayed throughout his life: selflessness and dedication to his team above the individual, combined with a work ethic, competitive spirit, and drive to succeed few could match.