Rob Zofchak didn’t get the chance to swim his last lap because of the pandemic but the Michigan senior and former Dexter HS standout made quite an impressive splash during his four years as a Wolverine.
“Unfortunately, I am finished with my swimming career,” said Zofchak, who was Academic All-Big Ten in 2018. “I can’t see myself dedicating another year towards swimming Olympic Trials in 2021, which was the last meet I intended on swimming at. I had hoped to swim LCM one more time since I perform better in the big pool, but it is not realistic to set my life aside for another year, especially when the Olympic roster is so competitive.”
Instead of finishing up his college career for the maize and blue, Zofchak spent time at home with his family in Dexter. “I’ve been keeping in touch with all of my friends, working out at home, and exploring new hobbies,” he said a few months ago. “I think it is important to keep busy right now and also to socialize in a smart manner. Playing games with friends or taking time to video chat with some of them has been great.”
Zofchak qualified for the NCAAs only to have them canceled because of the pandemic.
“It was a huge bummer for the team for NCAAs to be canceled,” he said. “I was excited to go and represent Michigan on the national stage, but it is what it is.
“For the team, we had a goal of placing in the top three overall, and by the time championship season came around, it really looked like we were going to achieve that goal. We had just come off a great Big Ten (meet) and many of our top guys had not rested for the meet in preparation for NCAAs.”
At the Big Ten Championships in February, Zofchak finished fourth in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:41.34. He also was ninth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:35.40) and 10th in the 200-yard IM (1:44.24).
Zofchak had received an invite to the NCAA Championship in March in the 200-yard backstroke.
“I think that we were about to really make a statement at the meet and it meant a lot to all of us especially because we missed the mark last year and kind of flopped the meet,” he said. “All my teammates knew we were better than we performed last year and this time around was our opportunity for redemption. Especially me and the other seniors; I was privileged to be a part of the top senior class in America, and this meet was really going to be our peak. Things were really shaping up for us to have multiple NCAA champion swimmers in that class and as such I feel bad for them because they were never able to make the dream into reality.”
Despite the disappointment at the end, Zofchak enjoyed an impressive final chapter to his successful story at U-M. The team had a solid season and Zofchak was named one of four captains for his final lap as a Wolverine.
“I think we led the team well,” he said. “It meant so much for me to be a captain of the team and it kept me doing the right things.”
In the pool, Zofchak’s highlights included taking third in both the 200-yard freestyle (1:39.81) and the 100-yard backstroke (49.89) in a January meet with Michigan State; third in the 200 backstroke (1:46.40) against Ohio State in January; and third in the 200 back against Indiana also in January. At the Minnesota Invite (Dec. 4-7), he finished 14th in the 200-yard backstroke (1:44.31), 18th in the 100-yard backstroke (48.47), 19th in the 200-yard IM (1:46.04) and 22nd in the 200-yard freestyle (1:37.33).
“This year I spent more time than ever up in our training room for recovery and rehab purposes,” he said. “I have always been an injury-prone person, and my junior year was bogged down pretty consistently with one injury or another. Our athletic trainer worked closely with me to make sure I was doing everything right to stay healthy and I think it showed, since I swam best times all around this year.”
Zofchak said he still had some issues with both his back and hip but “worked through it pretty well.”
“I think that had I not had some sort of major injury my sophomore and junior years, I would have had a different swimming career,” he says. “With that knowledge though we prepared accordingly and had a successful season. It also was awesome seeing the team do so well. Everyone really bought into the training and the tone we set from the beginning of the year so in that sense, it was a great success.”
As a junior, Zofchak finished 10th in the 200-yard backstroke (1:43.76), 18th in the 200-yard IM (1:45.13) and 22nd in the 100-yard backstroke (47.98) at the Big Ten Championships. He also had three top 20 finishes at the Big Ten Championships as a sophomore: 11th in the 200-yard backstroke (1:43.16), 17th in the 200-yard IM (1:45.81) and 19th in the 100-yard backstroke (47.59).
He said he was most proud of how he and his teammates were able to overcome adversity.
“There were so many things that happened that transcended our work in the pool that it was kind of astounding,” he says. “For pushing through and still achieving at the high level that our team did, that is what I think I am most proud of.”
Zofchak, who majored in computer science, still has some school left before departing for the real world.
Zofchak, who also swam for Club Wolverine, arrived at Michigan after an awesome career at Dexter HS where he was a five-time All-American and holds the MHSAA Division II state record in the 100-yard backstroke. He also holds four Dexter school records and was a 16-time All-State selection.
“I really enjoyed high school swimming because it was the last line of competitive athletics for many of my teammates,” says Zofchak, who graduated Summa Cum laude. “High school swimming was where a bunch of random guys could come together and try the sport that has taken up most of my life. To be able to bond over something like that was really fun, and has contributed to friendships that I still maintain today.”
Photos courtesy U-M Athletics