The Brighton graduate excels for the University of Maine men's swimming team. Chornobil, a junior, is also doing well in the classroom as a zoology/biology major.

When Yuri Chornobil was looking at colleges during his senior year at Brighton his first thought was to get out of the cold climate that comes with living in the Northeast.

The University of North Carolina-Wilmington was the early leader, thanks to the warm Atlantic coast weather and because of its proximity to the beach.

“I had my heart set on (UNC Wilmington) because it was like five minutes from the beach and I don’t really like cold,” Chornobil said.

Towards the middle of his senior year he decided to go against his gut and visit the University of Maine, which not only offered his major (zoology/biology), but offered him the chance to continue his swimming career. After touring the campus and meeting with members of the swim team, the plan changed.

Suddenly, warm weather didn’t seem like that high of a priority.

The Baron record-holder has made the most of his time with the Black Bears becoming the team’s top distance swimmer going into his junior season.

“I came on recruiting trip here and the guys here made me feel part of the team,” Chornobil said. “I decided to become a Black Bear.”

Chornobil moved up the America East Conference rankings last season and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down year.

He was named the conference swimmer of the week on Tuesday after winning the 500 and 1000 freestyle events as Maine defeated Bryant 135-127 on Sunday. One day earlier Chornobil recorded top 10 finishes in the 500 free and as part of the 200 free relay at the Husky Invitational.

Since coming to Maine Chornobil has also competed in the 1650 free. How does he survive the brutal race? By picturing the worst pain imaginable, then multiplying it by 10.

“Yuri has been a very hard worker both inside and outside of the pool here at the University of Maine,” said Susan Lizzotte, Black Bears head coach.

“His workouts are designed towards distance events, which are very difficult workouts, so he works very hard at keeping up his stamina and strength for those long distance races. His goal is to get his name on the record board and he is very much on his way towards doing that.”

Chornobil quickly took to college swimming, finishing fifth in the 1650 freestyle and at the conference championship meet his freshman season. The last two seasons he has been part of the 800 free relay, which has finished fifth at the America East Championship both years.

“I could see college swimming is very different from high school,” Chornobil said. “In high school there are a lot of seniority type things but there is not a lot of that in college. You come in and you are part of the team. They treat you like one big family.”

Chornobil is most excited about his work in the classroom where he has been named to the American East Honor Roll. Chornobil’s studies will take him well outside the campus over the next year. 

In the spring semester he will spend six weeks in the Caribbean for a Marine Based Science Study. The fall semester of his senior year will be spent in Australia, where he will examine the Great Barrier Reef.

“It is not in the classroom, with hands on learning, which is what I have wanted since I picked this major,” Chornobil said. “I have laways wanted to go to Australia so it was an easy decision.”

Chornobil left his mark on the Brighton program where he is part of two school record relays and has the top time in the 500 free. For Chornobil his high school career was about more than record-breaking performances.

He was an integral part of the program’s turnaround, culminating with the team’s sectional championship in 2009. Chornobil credits head coach Ben Vick for having the biggest influence on the program.

“He’s committed and got a real love for the sport,” Vick said. “He’s one of those guys who has put in the time to be successful in the sport.”