Justina Kozan Focused On Olympic Trials as College Recruiting Looms

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Justina Kozan (middle) with her gold medal at the 2019 World Juniors. Photo Courtesy: FINA / Budapest 2019

Justina Kozan Focused On Olympic Trials as College Recruiting Looms

Mission Viejo’s Justina Kozan is one of the top ranked recruits in the class of 2022 as she enters her junior year this fall. As the world junior champion in the 200 IM and junior national west champion in the 400 IM, 200 free and 200 fly, those accomplishments have left a lot of different schools knocking on her door – err, virtual door.

“At first it was really overwhelming. I was talking to like 20 schools, but I have narrowed it down to 10. I just don’t know which ones I’m going to narrow it down to yet,” Kozan told Swimming World.

Kozan, 16, based out of Southern California, is one of the most sought out recruits in the country, but won’t be able to do any on-campus official visits until at least the spring due to the current climate with the coronavirus affecting the entire world. It is an unprecedented time for college coaches trying to attract swimmers to their schools, and an unusual experience for the swimmers as they have to make the difficult decision in selecting a school after virtual visits.

Luckily for Kozan, she is just a junior so she has the next two years to make a decision.

“I’d rather do campus tours in person rather than on a call or Facetime because I think it is really important to see the college before you commit there,” said Kozan, who is aiming at the moment to study to become a physical therapist. USC is just a drive away for her, but her other options don’t have the same luxuries in terms of proximity.

“I wish there would be recruiting trips next year but I don’t know if that is going to happen. I’m not that anxious because I think I’m just focused on Olympic Trials before committing to any college so I don’t think I’ll think that much about college before Olympic Trials.”

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Justina Kozan. Photo Courtesy: Walnut High School

At last summer’s Nationals, she reached the final in the 200 IM, the event which helped her qualify for the World Juniors where she won the gold medal in the 200 IM at 2:11.55. Kozan also won three events at the Juniors West in December in the 400 IM, 200 free and 200 fly as she has emerged as a multi-event contender with another year to go until Trials. With the 200 free and 200 IM finals on day four and the 200 fly on day five, she will need to make a decision if she chooses to go all-in on one event.

“My events are kind of close because the (200 free), (200 IM) and (200 fly) are all really close in the schedule but I don’t know which one I’m going to choose. I think I’m also going to swim the 400 IM and maybe the 100 fly.”

With the Olympics being pushed back a year, a lot of people in swimming have looked at the younger generation as those that could benefit the most from the postponement.

“I think a year is really beneficial for me because I get to have another year of training to get faster and build more confidence. I think I’ll just focus on swimming my best at Olympic Trials.”

Kozan is at her new home with the Mission Viejo Nadadores and coach Mark Schubert, where she just moved earlier in the summer to have a stronger training group. She’s been back in the water for a couple months now and in a nice routine with training, something not very many high school swimmers can say. Competitions have been rare, but Mission Viejo held a “virtual meet” with the University of Florida. Even though they aren’t traveling, staying in hotels, or shaving down, a race is still a race.

“I liked it,” Kozan said of her virtual meet. “I thought it was really cool and I was actually really nervous before my events, I don’t even know why! We were racing in practice suits but I thought it was so fun.”

As Kozan approaches a new school year, she is staying positive during this unprecedented time as she enters another Olympic year, a year of virtual recruiting trips, and a year of distanced learning.

“I just focus on what I’m doing now,” she said. “I just think of what I can do to improve myself like if I work at home or go on a hike, or walk my dog, or do some yoga, I just do whatever I can.”