If you want to become an elite athlete, it will take years of hard work, dedication, and some natural talent. When it comes to junior swimmer Bella Stefanowicz, it became apparent at a very young age that she would become a great swimmer.
Stefanowicz started swimming at just two years old. When she turned five years old, her parents decided it was time for her to compete competitively. Although she was a swimmer first, it didn’t stop her from trying other sports.
“Growing up, I played soccer and I did gymnastics, but when I turned eight I quit them both to focus on swimming,” Stefanowicz said.
It didn’t take long for her to realize she could compete at the collegiate level, however.
“It was around sophomore year of high school when I was getting personal best times and really excelling in swimming. That’s when I really started to look at swimming in college. I always wanted to swim in college but didn’t know how realistic it was until my sophomore year,” Stefanowicz said.
Like all great athletes, Stefanowicz got recruited to different colleges. Schools like Westchester University recruited her, but Rowan rose above all the other options.
“I really clicked with [head coach] Elise [Fisher] here. The team atmosphere also helped in my decision-making,” Stefanowicz said. She also pointed out that Rowan University had a good program for the major she felt like pursuing.
Transitioning from high school to college isn’t easy for any athlete. Stefanowicz’s welcome-to-college moment came when she talked with Fisher about changing her course.
“I came into college as a distance swimmer and a backstroker, but Elise quickly realized I was destined for breaststroke, which I am,” Stefanowicz said.
When speaking to Stefanowicz, it became apparent that Fisher and she had a great relationship. She hopes that incoming freshmen can put in the same blind trust that she had.
“The advice I would give incoming freshmen is to trust your coaches because they know what they are doing and they know what is going to help you excel in the end,” Stefanowicz said.
All athletes carry themselves in different ways. Some are leaders, and others are more laid back. If you attend one of the women’s swim team practices or meets, it will become apparent that Stefanowicz is a leader.
“I would definitely consider myself a leader. I think that I lead by example and I make sure to motivate my teammates during practice. I was elected as junior captain this year along with two other juniors,” Stefanowicz said.
Her teammates see her as a leader as well, as she was selected as a junior captain. This should be seen as a direct reflection of not only how talented Stefanowicz is, but how great of a teammate and leader she is, which is something that Fisher picked up on.
“Bella is not only just a tremendous leader for our program, but she is a team captain and a loyal teammate. I think she ultimately wants the best for every person on this team, and she shows it day in and day out,” Fisher said.
Receiving awards isn’t something Stefanowicz is foreign to. As a freshman, Stefanowicz won the Rookie of the Year award, was selected to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) first team in the 100 breaststroke, and was selected to the second team in the 200 breaststroke and 400 medley relay. Even with this hardware, she’s even more motivated to do it again.
“They motivate me because it makes me want to strive to that potential again. Sometimes people think it is freshman luck when people come in and get best times. I want to show that you can continue improving and getting better throughout college,” Stefanowicz said.
She has definitely kept her word and gotten better throughout her college career.
“She has grown a lot as a swimmer. She was recruited as more of a distance-free styler but I shortly realized she had a ton of potential with her breaststroke. The fact that she was flexible and she was willing to seek an opportunity that was there for her on our roster as a top breaststroker just speaks to the type of athlete she is,” Fisher said.