When talking about William Chrisman swimmer Daniel Kuropka, head coach Trevor Tomney raises his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders as a look of shock washes over his face.
Kuropka, a foreign exchange student from Slovakia, has done something that has stunned his teammates and his coach.
He’s broken a whopping seven school records and became the first Chrisman swimmer to qualify for the state meet since Adam Vader did it in 2002.
“It’s been a great surprise,” Tomney said. “This was totally unexpected. He has broken every individual school record except diving and the 50 and 100 free, which we’re still hoping to do.
“He’s mainly an IMer and butterflier. This really came out of nowhere. I heard we were getting an exchange student from Slovakia a couple weeks before the season started. I had no idea he would rewrite the Chrisman record book.”
To make his his accomplishments even more unbelievable, coming into his senior year, Kuropka hadn’t swum in three years since he left his club team in Slovakia, Kupele Piestany. He left that club when he was 15 years old because his friends had quit the team and he was getting tired from a rigorous practice schedule.
He swam from when he was 6 years old until he was 15. He even swam in a meet involving three other countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – and finished fourth in the 100-meter medley in the 15-year-old division.
Although he had been away from the sport for three years, Kuropka decided to get back into it to “keep himself in shape.”
“I am not a good swimmer,” he said, speaking with a Slovakian accent. “I could have been a good swimmer if I didn’t quit when I was 15. No, it’s just fun for me. I just want to get some exercise.”
Kuropka remembers the first practice with William Chrisman, his first time swimming competitively in a few years. He was fatigued after a few minutes in the pool. He said his arms and legs were tired and he just didn’t have much energy.
“When I started training, I felt really weak,” Kuropka said. “But now I am progressing. I can swim two hours. At first, that wasn’t easy. I am getting better, but I was much better when I was 15.”
But while the senior had to knock off the rust, he was able to do it quickly. He broke school records in the 200-yard freestyle (1:52.07), 500 freestyle (5:06.92), 100 backstroke (58.87), 100 breaststroke (1:04.60), 100 butterfly (55.81) and 200 individual medley (2:04.66). He has also qualified for the state meet in the butterfly and 200 IM.
“He just has the body of a swimmer,” Tomney said of how the 6-foot-2 senior got back into swimming shape so quickly. “He’s obviously done a lot of training and has spent a lot of time in the pool as a younger swimmer. The technique is there and he just needed to get back into shape after taking some time off.”
In November, Kuropka has the state meet to look forward to. He said he doesn’t know what to expect, but hopes to also qualify in the 200 or 500 freestyle and finish in the top 10 in any event he competes in.
“It’s going to be a new experience, so we’ll see how I do,” he said. “I honestly wasn’t expecting to make it.”
Now, that swimming has been divided into two classes at the high school level, Tomney, said he thinks Kuropka has a good shot to earn an all-state honor.
“I think he has a chance to finish in the top 16 easily,” Tomney said. “He will be swimming in the smaller class. There are some great times in the lower class but he’s ranked 11th in the 200 IM and 17th in the butterfly."