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Men’s Swimming: Senior Johnson reflects on swimming career

Megan Finneran | Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This year’s Irish squad has a 5-0 record, an All-American and an array of school records. Notre Dame looks to nine seniors and their experience for guidance as they continue the season.

Among these seniors is Chris Johnson, an Indiana native from Lake Central High School in Saint John. Now in his final year at Notre Dame he reflects on the milestones that led him to this position.

Johnson began swimming at the age of seven, taking swimming lessons at a local pool. At the pivotal third level of the lessons he had the option of joining the swim team and decided to pursue it.

“My mom didn’t think I would like it, so she asked the coach if I could come to practice for a week without paying because she didn’t think I was going to stick with it,” Johnson remembers. “Fifteen years later, I’m still going to practice.”

Johnson continued swimming with a club team because his elementary and middle schools did not have a squad. Upon reaching high school, he had his first taste of swimming for his school.

After experiencing success in high school Johnson realized he could potentially swim for a college team. Before the recruiting process began he browsed schools on his own. Johnson said he remembers receiving instructions from his mom to look at a state school as a backup. Coming from Indiana, he chose to look at Notre Dame.

“My mother kindly informed me that Notre Dame is not a regular state school,” Johnson said. “But that put Notre Dame on my map.”

Johnson pursued his dream state school, shadowing a local competitor from high school who attended the university already.

“He showed me that Notre Dame was a family and even beyond athletics, Notre Dame takes care of its own,” Johnson explained.

His final decision came down to Stanford and Notre Dame, and now four years removed from the decision Johnson said he has no regrets. He recalls many fond memories of his time here, particularly winning the Big East title as a team last year.

“It was around the 200-yard butterfly, and one of our freshmen [at the time], [sophomore] John Williamson, blew away his heat to win and that sealed the deal [for the team victory based on points]” Johnson said. “After two years of coming in second [to Louisville], finally winning it was a great feeling.”

Individually, Johnson said he also remembers his first-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke in Big East preliminaries sophomore year when he broke the team record with his time of 53.75.

“I got out of the water and my coach told me the old record holder already texted him and said, ‘He better go faster tonight [in the finals],’” he said of the day.

This year Johnson said he is looking to make more memories to close out his time with the Irish. He describes the feeling, as many seniors do, of having a mix of excitement and sorrow.

“Each day that passes, there’s another ‘that’s the last one of those’-type moments,” Johnson said. “I’m excited about not waking up at 5:30 every morning [for practice], but I’ll miss being with my teammates and working hard with them.”

Johnson will continue his senior season with the rest of the Notre Dame squad on Friday at the Hawkeye Invitational.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu