May 23, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. - Ivan Kopas, a rising senior on the Wolfpack swim team, took a different route in coming to NC State than that of most of his teammates. Literally. Kopas's journey to Raleigh began all the back in his hometown of Kikinda, Serbia, located in the northern portion of the country near the boarder of Romania and Hungary.
He made the decision to come to the United States for college, and first took his talents 4,431 miles from home to Stony Brook University, a campus located on Long Island, about 50 miles from New York City.
Following his freshman year, Kopas decided he wanted more out of his college experience, both athletically and academically. So he chose to transfer to NC State, and traveled the 564 miles down the east coast to Raleigh.
Kopas made an immediate impact to the team during his inaugural season with the Wolfpack, swimming the third-best time in school history in the 200 backstroke, and the fifth-fastest mark in the 100 backstroke. He continued to improve during his junior year, lowering his times from the previous season and moving up in the record books.
Kopas swam the second-best time in school history in the 100 backstroke with a lead-off split of 48.14. He now trails only head coach Braden Holloway in that event. Kopas also improved in the 200 backstroke, dropping his time to 1:44.91. That remained the third-fastest mark in program history.
Although Kopas was thrilled with his individual achievements, one of the highlights of the season for him was winning the 400-medley relay at ACCs. Kopas swam the backstroke leg for the team, which became the first relay from NC State to win an ACC Championship since 2006.
Aside from his success in the pool, Kopas has been a standout in the classroom during his two years at NC State as well. An All-ACC Academic team selection this year, he is double-majoring in electrical engineering and computer engineering.
Now nearly 5,000 miles away from Kikinda, Kopas has made Raleigh his home away from home, and plans to stay in the area for at least two more years, as he finishes both his swimming career and his degree.
Q: Talk about your journey in coming to NC State.
A: I chose to go to Stony Brook my first year. My major is electrical engineering. I now have a second major, computer engineering, but I started off with just electrical engineering and that school is pretty good in that field so I went there. I was also on their swim team. After freshman year I decided to give myself a bigger challenge and go to the ACC. I came to visit NC State and I really liked it here, I really liked the coaching staff and it's also a really good engineering school.
Q: What are your Olympic aspirations?
A: I have the Olympic cut for the U.S. Olympic Trials but I'm not a citizen so I can't compete. When the guys are at the Olympic Trials I will try to find a meet around here and try to qualify for Serbia for the Olympics. They don't have Trials, some countries don't, it's just the fastest cuts get to go. I'm close, and I'm not giving up, so we'll see.
Q: What are your goals for next season, team wise?
A: Our 400-medley relay got first at ACCs this year, and we would like to do the same thing next year. That will require us all to go a little faster. Next year I'm going to be focusing on sprint backstroke, so that means the 50 and 100, and that should help our relays too.
Q: What are your individual goals for your senior year?
A: As far as my individual goals, I'd like to improve my times. I was in the "A" final at ACCs this year, I was 5th and 6th [in the 200 and 100 backstroke, respectively], so I would like to get a medal. In the 100 backstroke, our coach is the only one in front of me, so next year I would like to beat my coach. I'm not going to be focusing that much on the 200, but I would like to move up.
Q: How exciting was it to win the 400-medley relay?
A: That was really exciting because no one really expected us to win. Especially all the ACC teams, usually before the race people kind of make predictions, and no one really was thinking about us even getting third place. That was really exciting, everyone was surprised, we were surprised too. Everything just happened perfectly and no one messed anything up.
Q: How challenging was it for you to move to the United States and go to school here, after growing up in Serbia?
A: The culture is a lot different. It depends how fast you can adapt. I don't think it's any better, (than Serbia) just different. As long as you just follow along you'll adapt quickly and it's not that bad. School wise, I'm getting more and more challenged because junior and senior year are much harder. I'm trying to simultaneously do that and swimming so that I can achieve 100 percent in both fields. I'm trying to keep my major at about a 3.4 because 3.3 is required for grad school, and I would like to get my Ph.D after undergrad. I like electrical engineering better, I chose computer engineering as my second major just because it's easier to get a job later, but I would like to do Ph.D in electrical engineering. So while I'm swimming fast I need to keep up my GPA so that I can get in to grad school.