Swim and dive: Chromey’s career with the Gophers ends unexpectedly

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Alexandria's Nic Chromey swims at the 2020 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships hosted at the University of Iowa February 26-29, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Walt Middleton Photography)

Alexandria’s Nic Chromey called it a goal of his to swim at the University of Minnesota since he was a young athlete seeing so much success within the Cardinals program.

Chromey got that chance with the Gophers. His two years in Minnesota’s swim and dive program took him all over the country, and for that he’s grateful, but he never envisioned his competitive swimming career ending quite like it did late this spring.

University of Minnesota athletics are facing major budget concerns heading into the next academic year. The StarTribune reported in early April that the Gophers athletic department could lose up to $75 million under the worst-case scenario that games are canceled through the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having games in the fall without fans in attendance would still mean a major financial hit, and some Gophers programs are having to make cuts to their rosters. That includes men’s swimming and diving.

“I did not make the cut, which was pretty tough for me to take initially,” Chromey said in an interview with the Echo Press on June 4. “I knew swimming wouldn’t be my career, but I wanted to go out on my own terms. It was tough to be told that there wouldn’t be a spot on this team for me next year.”

Chromey still plans to remain a student at the University of Minnesota. He loves his degree there in computer engineering, and he’s made friends and developed a comfort around the Twin Cities that he wants to remain a part of.


“Honestly, I couldn’t imagine trying to go swim anywhere else,” he said. “I love swimming here and also love my degree. I have a lot of friends here. I love where I live, and it’s close enough to home so I can visit. For me, being a student at the University of Minnesota is definitely something that’s going to happen next year.”

Chromey is still giving some thought as to how he might stay involved with the Gophers swim team. There’s been talk about him being in a manager role, but that too requires a lot of time that could be dedicated to academics and work. Chromey picked up a temporary job this summer as a package handler for FedEx.

“I don’t know that I’d want to do it full time,” Chromey said of the team manager role. “That kind of defeats the purpose of me not swimming, so I just want to be there for when they really need it. Be there to keep up with the team and keep up with the coaches.”

Mixed emotions

Chromey went into the University of Minnesota after back-to-back Class A state titles in high school in the 100 breaststroke.

His last race for the Cardinals went exactly how he wanted it to. Chromey set a new personal record in the Gophers’ home pool on March 3, 2018 with a time of 55.54 seconds that allowed him to win that state title by more than a second.

Chromey’s career with the Gophers the last two years included a seventh-place finish at the Florida dual as a sophomore. He added eighth-place finishes in both the 100 breaststroke (59.75) and the 50 freestyle (23.28) against Iowa, and had that same finish in the 100 breast (59.78) and 200 breast (2:15.96) against Florida State.

“I enjoyed the opportunities,” Chromey said of his two years swimming with the Gophers. “It was great. I got to travel across the country to places and universities that I’ve never been. I got to go to Hawaii twice, but as far as the swimming side of it, it was a little disappointing. I never got a personal best. I did in the 200 breaststroke, but not my main, which was the 100 breast.”

That was frustrating for Chromey because he saw major gains in his training that for some reason did not translate into the pool.


“I’m not sure if my body is getting used to that kind of training,” he said. “I also think that part of it was, in high school you take it for granted, but you actually have a lot of time to recover. In college, your time is very, very limited. I think especially on taper, I could just sit around and allow my body to just rest (in high school). In college, it’s not necessarily the case. I have to bike to class, you get a little less sleep. Stuff just adds up. I think that definitely impacted it.”

Swimming in his future?

Chromey said he knows how tough making cuts to the roster was for Gophers’ swim and dive head coach Kelly Kremer.

“Obviously, it’s not a choice. Management told them they had to make cuts,” Chromey said. “I really like Kelly. He’s by far one of my favorite coaches ever. He’s a great mentor. He’s helped me through times I was struggling. He mentioned that he would really like it if I came back (as a manager), but I’ll have to see how much time I’m willing to give for that.”

Chromey has swam competitively at a high level since he was 10-years old. Giving that up completely at age 20 is not easy to do, but he knows too that his academics and setting himself up for a career after college take priority right now.

School requires a lot of attention with Chromey’s engineering degree and management minor. That’s in addition to the nearly 20 hours a week he was devoting to swimming.

“That’s like a part time job,” Chromey said. “I could use that time to work and study. Instead of having a deficit, I’d be earning money and I’d have more time for my grades. I think that’s just probably a better choice for me and my future moving on.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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