Bondarenko enters March like a Lion
2/22/13 Oak Park River Forest's Nikita Bondarenko qualified 4th in the 500 freestyle at the IHSA Boys Swimming Championships at New Trier H.S.| Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Thursday Boys water polo: Lynch Invite at Fenwick, 4 p.m.
Boys water polo: Lynch Invite at Fenwick, 4 p.m.
Friday Girls soccer: at Nazareth, 5 p.m.
Girls soccer: at Nazareth, 5 p.m.
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:27AM
New York City is Nikita Bondarenko’s kind of town.
The Oak Park-River Forest senior may have grown up in the Chicago area, but the recent multiple-state medalist in boys swimming was quite impressed by the Big Apple during his official recruiting trip in October. Bondarenko decided on March 7 to make NYC his future college home by committing to swim next season for Columbia.
Bondarenko signed with the Lions after a break-out senior season. Bondarenko will join Evanston graduate Kevin Quinn, a sophomore at Columbia, as the only Illinois products to swim next season for the Ivy League school.
“When I visited, I was pretty much in awe,” Bondarenko said. “It was my first time that I’ve ever been to New York. It was overwhelming. It was definitely the best. It was a whole different animal than Chicago.”
School officials not only took Bondarenko on a tour of the campus over two days, but Bondarenko and nearly a dozen other recruits saw the sights around Manhattan, along with plenty of stores and restaurants.
Columbia was always the first choice for Bondarenko, who was able to keep up his studies to earn admittance into the Ivy League school. He plans on studying economics or computer science.
“Swimming helped a lot (to get admitted),” Bondarenko said. “I had to get good test scores and I had to get good grades. It was a lot of work.”
Bondarenko became the first OPRF swimmer to medal in four events in the state meet since Jamie Daggett and Henry Tibensky in 1999. Bondarenko was fourth in the 500-yard freestyle, sixth in 200 free, eighth in the 200 medley relay and 10th in the 400 free relay.
As a junior, he was 11th in he 500 free and 12th in the 200 free.
Bondarenko has joined the OPRF water polo team for the first time now that club swimming no longer dominates his time. The Huskies are ranked No. 10 by illpolo.com and compete in the 10-team Lynch Invitational Thursday through Saturday at Fenwick.
“I’m seeing what I can do. It helps to be a pretty good swimmer,” Bondarenko said. “I’m learning, I guess.”