Ema Rajic was a force to be reckoned with while swimming for Uni High between 2014 and 2017, capturing four individual-event state championships among seven such medals. She’s only continued to shine since latching on with the California women’s program, winning an NCAA title in the 400-yard medley relay and holding the Golden Bears’ 100 breaststroke record. Rajic spoke on her success:
You raced at the World Aquatics Championships last month in South Korea. What was that like?
It was quite an experience. I didn’t swim as well as I’d hoped (in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke). But I think just the overall atmosphere and being there for the first time, it was pretty difficult to get my mind right and get my focus right, because I’m looking all over and seeing all these amazing Olympians walking around. ... But it was my first-ever trip with Team Croatia, so that was really awesome. And it was my first-ever international meet as well.
How would you assess your first season with California?
It was way more than I expected. Just this season, I was just really hoping to qualify for (the NCAA championships) and hopefully be on a relay or two. Pac-12s (championships) rolled around, and I qualified for (the NCAAs) in my last shot (in the 100 breaststroke). So that was pretty cool. And then something flipped the switch, and I was just so motivated to do as well as I could for the team (finishing eighth). I don’t even know how to explain it.
What does it mean to already hold a school record after one college season?
It honestly means the world to me. It was a dream just applying to Berkeley and getting in and talking with (coach) Teri (McKeever). And then to come out of my first season with a record already, it’s something I can’t really grasp my mind around, but it’s something that I also know makes me even more driven just to have that record.
What’s next for you at Cal?
Definitely improving my 200 breaststroke. I think I have a lot of improvement left there, and I’m really excited just to see what this season brings in terms of maybe other events.
Do you keep tabs on the Uni High team?
(Coach) Dave Young always texts me whenever I do good, and I try to text him when state rolls around. ... I’m still in very good contact with Reed Broaders and Sally Ma, and I just have a gut feeling they’re going to do so amazing this year. I love following their progress.