Sabercat alumni CJ and Danny Kovac

Jaidyn Nelson, Activities Writer

As signing day passes each year, it has become increasingly evident that Fort Collins and specifically Fossil Ridge has had a number of signees which exceeded the national average. The nation is said to have 2% of high school athletes sign a National Letter of Intent each year, although Fossil has an estimated 10%. Of all the athletes which signed this year and in year’s past, swimmers appear to have dominated the field. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) estimates that about 2.7% of high school men’s swimmers go on to swim for a Division I team and, conversely, 3.3% of women. Fossil alumni CJ Kovac claimed that college swimming had given her a different perspective on life since it “showed her how many people don’t get the opportunity to be an athlete and the percentage is so small,” which has given her an increased amount of appreciation for these opportunities.

The University of Missouri, better known as Mizzou, is currently ranked number three in the nation for men’s swimming and number nine for women’s.

CJ has had a college athletics journey that is quite different than most people. She had always had aspirations to swim in college, and when she was able to sign her National Letter of Intent in company of many of her best friends her senior year, she was excited beyond measure. That is, until something unexpected rocked her boat months before she left for college. After she committed to swim at Boise State University, both the head and assistant coaches at the school declared their intention to leave. As the coaches had been a huge influence in her choice to swim there, CJ was left feeling unsure in her decision. After many tears and hard conversations, she decided to call the head coach at the University of Missouri, where her brother had signed, in hopes that they would give her a chance. In times of luck, the coach took on CJ as a new member of their team and gave her a chance. Many times before, CJ has said just how thankful she is for Coach Rodenbaugh and his coaching staff at Mizzou for letting her in and giving her a chance she never previously believed would be available to her. When asked, CJ says her greatest achievement is not a time she swam, but instead “growing not only as an athlete, but as a person.” The sport of swimming has taught her “that life isn’t easy and that success does not come easily.” CJ, to this day, is a level-headed and determined person who constantly strives to make her family and friends proud. Nonetheless, her struggles have led her to discover some of her truest friends and swimming “has not only kept her fit, but has taught her lots of important life lessons and has helped her to become a better individual.”

CJ and Danny at the university’s ROAR awards, which honor athletes.

In addition, her fraternal twin brother, Danny Kovac, has had some of his greatest struggles and successes throughout the course of his swimming career. Danny is a multiple time state champion and positive influence for younger kids on the swim team. Although his unbeknownst struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder for years has shaped him into the athlete we all know him to be and has also influenced his perspective in more than one way. Beginning in eighth grade, Danny’s family and coaches soon realized he had characteristic behaviors, some random, and some associated with his luck with swimming. Initially, they believed that these rituals were just a form of superstition, although the battle Danny fought in his brain was much more. Many times, this meant he would carry out or avoid rituals or compulsions (many of which went unnoticed) in order to avoid what he thought may bring bad luck to his family or loved ones. This is when he first sought medical help and since then has learned much about the disorder which has time and time again influenced his mind. He has been most affected by OCD in times of change, in which going to college and leaving behind much of his family made his symptoms worse. His battle with OCD is something which will always be a part of who he is and has also come to prove that even the most elite athletes have their own battles, many of which cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Danny and CJ both have stories unique to themselves and different than most other athletes who have graduated from Fossil. Fossil taught them the power of “team,” and fostered a couple of their successes before they went on to college. Regardless, their stories matter and have the ability to teach us all the power of life’s journey—including both its struggles and successes.