Division III is remarkable. The student-athletes who attend and compete at DIII colleges do so without monetary compensation and often in conjunction with rigorous academic schedules and a good deal of extracurricular activities thrown in as well. Over the course of my own collegiate career, I shared pool space with athletes who developed robots, helped with political campaigns or competed in foreign countries. It is these stories and these athletes who best exemplify what it means to be a student-athlete at the Division III level.
What follows is a tribute to the athletes of Division III, showcasing seniors from across the country who have brought their own passion to swimming and academia. This series of articles strives to capture some of the many incredible, interesting or quirky things our swimming and diving seniors have done while out in the wider world.
All hail Division III.
Anastasia of Macedon
One perfect example of a passionate student-athlete is Johns Hopkins University’s multi-time national champion, Ana Bogdanovski. In the 2013-14 season, Bogdanovski secured two individual national titles in the 50 and 200 freestyles, as well as swimming legs on four of Hopkins’ five victorious relay teams. Her achievements at the national level netted her the title of CSCAA Swimmer of the Year at the 2014 NCAA champs. She was also named Bluegrass Mountain Conference Swimmer of the Year and nominated for the 2014 Collegiate Women’s Sports Award DIII Woman of the Year.
Bogdanovski, who hails from Fanwood, New Jersey, spent this summer exploring an option which her passion in the pool has also unlocked: competing on the international stage as a representative of the country of Macedonia. “My parents are both straight from Macedonia,” Bogdanovski explained. “I’ve been very big on the culture and I love the country.”
So how did an interest in culture end up with her name on five of Macedonia’s national records?
“I just wanted a cap with the Macedonian flag on it,” Bogdanovski said. She passed the request along to her uncle in Macedonia who went on a search and ended up with the contact information of the coach for the Macedonian National Team. “We exchanged emails and talked on the phone, and then we came to the agreement that I would swim on his club team and I’ve been going every summer.” She traveled to Europe to swim for him after her freshman and sophomore summers of college; this year, however, things went a little differently. Rather than traveling across the pond, Bogdanovski stayed in Baltimore and sent out applications for med school.
She applied Early Decision to New Jersey Medical School and has already been accepted. “I’m looking towards sports medicine or orthopedics,” Bogdanoski said. “It’s a little too early for me to decide. I guess in medical school I’ll figure out more of what I’m going to do.”
Bogdanovski also applied herself in the pool, opting to train with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club rather than returning to Macedonia. “If I’m going to be in America, I might as well find a team to train with over the summer,” she said. So utilizing collegiate connections, she set up an agreement with NBAC for the summer and has been training with the club since March. “It’s great,” Bogdanovski said. “With such a big team and so many fast people there’s always someone to try to catch up to.”
Her drive and desire paid off in the pool: at her final meet at Maryland State (international swimmers are not allowed to compete at the USA National meet), Bogdanovski posted five new lifetime bests and reset the Macedonian record books for the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles as well as the 50 and 100 backstroke. Her 100 and 200 freestyle times have also qualified her for the World Championships.
Bogdanovski’s ultimate goal for herself as a representative of Macedonia is competing at the crowning jewel of meets: the Olympics. Under the universality rule, two athletes from every country are allowed to compete in one event each at the Olympics; Bogdanovski wants to make the Olympic cut on her own merits.
This drive to succeed is what Bogdanovski shares with her Macedonian National teammate Marko Blazevski, a 2014 graduate of Wingate. “He and I are always trying to push each other to be better. Even though we’re the best in our country at this time, we always try to be better than we were.”
This is also something she strives to impart to her teammates at JHU. As a captain for the coming season, Bogdovanski explains that one of her jobs is to get the freshman on board early in the season. “Sometimes as a freshman it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to get traction. I’d like to help them get going right away, because I know that’s something I had trouble with – getting used to the program.” Bogdanovski’s other self-proclaimed role is that of maintaining the positivity.
With JHU’s pool being on the smaller side, “It gets hard to breathe, especially in the winter,” Bogdanovski said. That’s when athletes need to be at their toughest – “It’s those moments where you can decide to either fight through it or just give up… If you can fight through it in practice, then you can do it at a meet, and I think that’s very important.”
The Jays can count on Bogdanovski to lead from the front, channeling her adopted home country of Macedonia and being JHU’s very own Anastasia the Great.
Yes, Mr. Intern
Passion that stems from success is easy to understand. Passion rising out of failure is a little akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes. . . and sometimes seems just as mythical. For Kenyon senior Jacob Hegge, all zeal seems to arise out of strange places.
For a start, Hegge had not intended to end up at Kenyon. “I come from a town of two hundred people in Minnesota,” he said. “I always used to think after high school, I wanted to go to a state school. I wanted to go to a huge school, where there [were] thousands of students, [and] I was in the city.” With that mental picture, he had settled on the University of Minnesota with the intent to try walking onto the team or – failing that – swimming for the club team.
At the urging of a YMCA coach and a former Kenyon grad, Hegge’s mother purchased plane tickets for him to visit Kenyon for a recruiting trip. His response was immediate displeasure. “I told her, I already want to go to U of M; I don’t want to go to Kenyon. I don’t even want to go to my recruiting trip there.” Her response was just as swift: “You’re going; we bought the flight.
Two hours into his recruiting trip, Hegge recounts, “I texted my mother saying I was applying for Early Decision.”
The transition from wanting to apply to a big state school to actually applying to a small DIII school revolved around the community. “[The community] includes the swimming aspect. It includes the academics. It included being DIII,” Hegge said. The atmosphere, academics and the athletes all combined to form what Hegge concluded was the ideal environment. “You can’t help but be driven,” he said. “You’re surrounded by people who are so goal-oriented and so driven. Everyone wants to improve, no matter if you’re an athlete or a non-athlete.”
In this culture of driven students and student-athletes, Hegge immersed himself in a daunting combination of swimming and a double major in Economics and Modern Languages. The Modern Language major requires mastery of two non-English languages: Hegge elected to continue in Spanish which he had taken in high school and embark on a journey in Chinese. “I started freshman year,” he said, “and was literally the only person in my class who started freshman year. It’s been the most difficult thing I’ve had to do. I committed to it, so I couldn’t stop. I enjoy it. I really love it.”
How did he end up deciding to study Chinese?
“I was going to choose between Chinese and Arabic and I literally flipped a coin. I said, ‘Oh, heads was Chinese.’ And so I did Chinese because I couldn’t decide.” The burgeoning interest in Chinese language and Hegge’s firmly established love of travel eventually morphed into an interest in global development which saw fruition this summer when Hegge interned at the White House with the domestic policy council.
Like so many of his paths, Hegge more or less stumbled into the internship. After missing the National team his sophomore year, he and a Kenyon teammate flew to the British Isles for some downtime over spring break. While there, his teammate’s family suggested Hegge visit them in Washington D.C. over the summer to train with Nation’s Capitol swim team.
Hegge thought, “Why not?” and went job hunting for the summer. “I found this random coaching position in Maryland that I applied for, and I got hired.” Then the door opened. “Three weeks into the season, I found out I was coaching Dennis McDonough’s kids. And he’s the chief of staff for President Obama.” Always personable, Hegge caught the chief’s eye. “He’s from Minnesota, and I’m from Minnesota, so we hit it off right away.”
After learning of Hegge’s majors, McDonough took him to the White House to introduce to people and suggested applying for the position of intern for the following summer. “He said, ‘I’m going to be outright honest with you: I can’t help you with the application process at all,’” Hegge said. Undaunted, Hegge spent a good portion of the first semester of his junior year filling out the application and submitted it while the team was in Florida for winter training. Over the next two months, he had five different interviews with the White House, filed for security clearance and background checks, and then waited.
“I got a mail one day telling me I’d been accepted into the program, to the Internship Class of Summer 2014. It was a very lengthy, hard process. But I would do it all over again.”
The particulars of Hegge’s internship were focused on the Domestic Policy Council (DPC), specifically those relating to social innovation and civic participation. For anyone as baffled as I was, here’s a bit more explanation: the DPC coordinates the policy-making efforts in the White House and advises the President as well as supervising and coordinating federal agencies. The DPC also monitors the implementation of domestic policy.
The White House and its staff rely a surprising amount on the talented young people they bring in as interns. “When we first got there, they told us the White House would not run without interns,” Hegge said. “And I was like, that’s a joke. I didn’t believe it. After a week, I realized there was no way the White House could run without the eighty interns that they have.”
Hegge’s group worked with the policies that make groups like the Peace Corps and Americorps possible, as well as organizations like Pay for Success. Some of his summer work included helping rewrite policies in Americorps to allow paralegals and those fresh out of law school to help unaccompanied minors through legal proceedings. But he also enjoyed some hands on time helping create programs templates for policies that can improve the lives of Americans.
“We did stuff with My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” Hegge said. The program operates as a mentoring and support network to provide skills and opportunities for boys and young men of color. Hegge’s role lay in the organization of the program, doing research and making sure “that we are improving the lives of Americans.”
In a way, much of what the interns do sounds like a college classroom: “It was a lot of discussing thing, debating things, looking out, making sure you dotted your I’s and crossing your t’s. Making sure the policy you were creating or working on was the absolute best case scenario.”
But Hegge’s baby was the Holocaust survivor’s welfare program. He got into contact with companies, seeing if they were interested in donating money, or helping out people who survived the Holocaust. “There are thousands of people that live in the United States today who were in the Holocaust and a lot of them are below the poverty line,” Hegge said.
With this internship under his belt, Hegge’s plans stretch in many different directions. He plans to apply to the Princeton in Asia program, hoping to secure a berth to China with an NGO. He also may have designs towards applying for a foreign service program to become a diplomat. Or working at the White House again. He may just have to flip a coin – or several – to decide.