Jonathan Boland is a swimmer whose achievements make it peculiar that four years ago, colleges were skeptical of recruiting him onto their teams. He had plummeted in the national rankings because of an injury that prevented him from swimming for two years.
Overtraining took a toll on him as a high school freshman. He broke his back and was told by his doctor that his chances of swimming again were slim. Boland was fitted with a back brace intended to stimulate bone growth, and he wore it until his junior year, when a CT scan showed his back had fully healed. Boland was cleared to swim again.
He savored the small victories during his comeback and felt a shift in perspective. Prior to the injury, “swimming was purely a job,” Boland said. “I wasn’t really enjoying it. I was burned out mentally.”
Afterward, he said that he had a greater passion for the sport. It requires rigorous training “for so many hours a day, every day, in hopes of dropping maybe a tenth of a second,” Boland said. It also fosters closeness among teammates. Team dinners at the Dodie are the best part of his day.
Now a third-year exercise science and Honors College student, Boland’s weeks are filled with practices, classes, schoolwork and community service. He speaks with the mysticism of a person who is apparently acing his life and finding a balance between these responsibilities.
This summer is a big one for Boland, as he will be applying for medical school and competing in the Olympic trials. His specialties are the backstroke and butterfly.
“I don’t expect to make it,” he said about the trials. “It’s hard to make it as an American,” Boland said, referring to swimming legends Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who dominate the competition.
“I’m going more for the experience,” Boland said. An experience open to elites.