Junior National champion picks Illinois

ST. LOUIS – Alison Czmarko has never swam a stroke for her school.

That'll change next year when the Corjesu Academy senior enters the University of Illinois.

Czmarko, a two-time Junior National champion, has orally committed to Jim Lutz's Illini program. And she's eager to experience what it's like to represent her school in the pool.

"You want to bring attention to your school and school recognition," Czmarko said Friday. "It's such a hard thing that you can't."

It's not that Czmarko doesn't want to swim for Corjesu, she said.

It's just that the Missouri State High School Activities Association does not allow United States Swimming Inc. club members to compete for their high school. And it's been through training and competing with the Rock Wood Swim Club of St. Louis that Czmarko has developed into one of the top young backstrokers in the country. In that event, she is listed among the top 100 U.S. swimmers all-time in the 15-16 age group.

Among her other achievements:

– Placing in the top eight seven times at Junior Nationals.

– Entering Junior Nationals as a top-16 qualifier each year since age 10.

– Qualifying for Senior Nationals every year since she was 16, with a top placing of 24th.

– Receiving an invitation to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Czmarko said she checked out the UI on her own last year, then made her official visit in September.

"I want to major in psychology, and they have a very good psychology department," Czmarko said. "I felt they had a very good swim team, too. It just seemed like the right balance of academics and athletics."

Czmarko's other official visit was to Kansas. She canceled out on an invitation by Notre Dame after settling on the UI.

Czmarko already knows one of her future teammates. Junior Traci Bollinger of Dupo High School near St. Louis is a former club teammate.

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