By Jared Prenda
As the Catholic University family was ringing in the New Year, we lost one of our own. Chris Crafa, a junior, passed away due to a cardiac event early in the morning of January 1st near his home in Garden City, New York. He was 20-years-old.
Chris, a mechanical engineering student, had been a member of the swimming and diving team for the past three years and was a crucial part of securing back-to-back Landmark Conference Championships.
Chris was a fierce competitor who was always willing to put in the extra drive and work to make up for his smaller size. At the most recent conference championship, Chris set three personal records while podiuming as many times. In 2017, Chris found the podium thrice more in the 100- and 200-backstroke as well as the 200 individual medley.
“Chris was a great teammate, he was fun and funny and lighthearted outside of the pool and he was a really tough competitor,” said swim team head coach, Paul Waas. “He was really small physically, but he had a big attitude and lot of confidence. He would set big goals in the pool and once he achieved them, he would set even bigger goals and get after those.”
Less than a week after Chris’ death, the team went on its annual Florida training trip. For some members, this came as a blessing and a curse, as it allowed the team to come together for support as they mourned the loss of a teammate and a friend.
“Chris was the person that we would lean on as a team if a tragedy like this were to happen,” said Waas. It was tough: it might have been a blessing in disguise as far as emotional recovery and to be together so soon and bond and heal as a team. The Florida trip was one of Chris’ favorite events as a team so it was good that we could reflect on him while we were there.”
Chris was described as a true friend and teammate by others on the team. His coach said that he was always inviting and would be one of the first to cheer and support his teammates, often offering advice to younger members. Coach Waas reflected on how Chris was always the first to motivate and cheer on his teammates no matter who it was or what event they were racing.
Classmate and teammate George Isaacs said that Chris lived and breathed to swim and would bring a level of drive and inspiration to others on the team. He had a level of determination that was unmatched and brought that energy everywhere with him.
“His biggest motivation was actually swimming. He was the only member of the team who would do two-a-days. He would get up at 6 in the morning to swim and would be at practice at around 4 in the afternoon all fired up for practice,” said Isaacs. “He definitely loved swimming more than anyone else I know.”
Chris is survived by his parents Joe and Lorilee and three brothers: James, and John and Thomas with whom he was triplets.
The team members were immediately impacted by the loss of their teammate but embodied his warm and caring spirit by creating a GoFundMe to help support his family. The crowd sourcing raised $8,210, which was well over the $5,000 goal. This generosity has inspired the family to work closely with both the athletics department and his alma mater, Garden City High School, to grant an award in his honor at the end of every season. The award will be given to one swimmer from each school who embodies Chris’ memory: “selflessness and dedication to his team above the individual, combined with a work ethic, competitive spirit, and drive to succeed few could match,” according to the Athletics website.
To donate to the GoFundMe click on the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/in-memory-of-chris-crafa