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Katarina Antonov Makes a Big Splash

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Baron Athletics

Katarina Antonov Makes a Big Splash

Nursing major Katarina Antonov cannot imagine her life apart from swimming and is already breaking records and piling up honors.

Summer 2023

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When 2-year-old Katarina Antonov first dipped her toe in the swimming pool, she had no idea what a momentous little step it was. Today, the nursing major who transferred to Franciscan University last January cannot imagine her life apart from swimming and is already breaking records and piling up honors.

“I started really loving swimming when I was 12,” she says. “That’s when I decided I wanted to swim in college. It’s been a huge part of my life.”

Franciscan University, the alma mater of her parents, Daniel Reynolds ’00 and Stephanie (Antonov ’99) Reynolds, gave her what she had been missing at the University of South Florida: a small Catholic college experience and the chance to follow her passion and swim again. When Antonov says “swim,” she means, “swim fast.”

Antonov is the first Franciscan swimmer to be named 2022-23 PAC Newcomer of the Year and PAC First Team All-Conference. At the PAC Championships, she broke three individual records and helped break three relay records. She won a gold medal in the 1650 freestyle, breaking the school record, and a silver in the 500 freestyle, having broken another school record when she came in first in the prelims.

“I definitely worked my way up faster than I thought,” says Antonov. “That has been surprising to me, but it also showed me how much I can do.”

“Her natural athleticism impressed me from the beginning,” says Kaitlin Gore, head women’s swimming and diving coach. “She is supportive and encouraging to all her teammates, and her passion for swimming creates a positive environment for them. Kat has an outstanding future ahead of her as a student-athlete at Franciscan.”

Despite her instant athletic success, what remains most important for Antonov is her faith and her friends.

“Faith is such a huge part of swimming and sports at Franciscan,” she says, offering examples like “Testimony Tuesdays,” when the swim team shares their faith before morning practice and the practice of praying before and after swim meets with swimmers from other schools.

“That means a lot,” she says. “It definitely brings you closer together and forms friendships.”

She credits her club coach, Tarn Thompson, who was “like a second dad,” with inspiring her to apply her faith at college and in her life.

“Before I left for college, he gave me his mother’s rosary, which was blessed by Pope St. John Paul II,” she says. “I carry that around with me everywhere I go.”

Reflecting on her first semester at Franciscan, Antonov says, “I’m most grateful for my friends. The faith-based community and people here are amazing. You don’t get that experience at a big public school.”

With plans to become a nurse practitioner after graduation, she hopes to keep swimming at Franciscan, to medal again next year, and to achieve her personal goal of swimming the mile in under 18 minutes. Betting against her would not be a good idea.

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