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Eric Peterson, Published November 24 2011

Life's journey has led swimmer to Cobbers after near-drowning incident, stint in Israeli Defense Forces

Moorhead - Adva Aharonovich remembers one of her first experiences in a swimming pool being quite traumatic.

She was in grade school and in an outdoor pool in her native Israel.

“They told me not to let go of the wall and I did,” Aharonovich said.

Aharonovich said no one immediately noticed she “was drowning.”

“Finally, my sister caught me and then she jumped and saved me,” Aharonovich said. “That was pretty scary. That was the end of it, and my mom put me in swimming.”

These days, she is at home in the water and more than 6,000 miles away from home. She is a senior swimmer for Concordia.

“It’s been really great,” said Aharonovich, who is 24 years old. “It’s a really a nice school and I have no regrets.”

Aharonovich came to Concordia after two years of mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces. She was athletic trainer for the Israeli Air Force. Part of her job included teaching self-defense, including using an M16 as a “cold weapon.”

Aharonovich went into the military about six months after high school. She said in Israel, women are required to serve for two years and men for three years.

“It’s mandatory, and that is kind of surprising to people here,” she said. “For me, it’s just not a big deal because you grew up in that. … You knew you were going to be serving in the military whether you liked it or not. I had an amazing service and I would do it all over again.”

Aharonovich grew up in Kiryat Bialik, which is a suburb of Haifa in the north part of Israel. After her military service, she knew she wanted to study abroad. She knew she wanted to go to a small liberal arts college. She wanted to go to a school that had a swim program and offered accounting and computer science majors.

Those factors led her to Concordia. Aharonovich had been to the United State many times before she came to Concordia in August 2008, but she had mixed emotions initially. She was starting from scratch, coming to a part of the United States where she didn’t know anyone and also had to get used to a new climate. In Israel, Aharonovich said it would get as hot as 120 degrees with brutal humidity. In Moorhead, she would have to brave temperatures that could hit 30 degrees below zero.

None of that fazed her too much.

“I was really excited and also kind of afraid, because I hadn’t touched anything school-wise for a good three years,” Aharonovich said.

She has handled the academic transition and turned into a reliable member on the Concordia swimming team. Cobbers head coach Julie Lucier said Aharonovich’s drive was evident near the end of her sophomore season.

Late in the season, she had yet to qualify for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference meet in the 50-yard freestyle. Aharonovich swam the event three times in one day in the team’s final meet of the regular season.

The third and final time she swam the 50 freestyle was in a time trial. She clocked the qualifying time she needed after falling short the first two times.

“She perseveres,” said Lucier. “And she knows what I think about time trials because it’s unlikely that you are going to do better. She is persistent.”

Aharonovich is taking 21 credits this semester and also works 15 hours a week at an accounting internship. Her junior year, she worked 30-40 hours a week in that same internship.

“She’s a tough girl,” said Lucier, who is having Aharonovich over for Thanksgiving dinner. “The first time I met her I could tell she was determined.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com