ROSEMONT, Ill. - Nikola Bjelajac swept the freestyle sprints in his first collegiate meet during Purdue's winter training trip in Hawaii, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for a strong debut.
Bjelajac helped the Boilermakers win 10 of the 12 individual events in their dual meet victory at the University of Hawaii on Jan. 2, joining Marat Amaltdinov as two-time winners in Honolulu. Bjelajac won the 50 free with a team season-best time of 20.63 and out touched teammate James Boone by two hundredths of a second, 46.26 to 46.28, in the 100 free.
A freestyle specialist from Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bjelajac joined the program during the semester break. His collegiate eligibility was officially verified the week between Christmas and New Year's, and he took a Dec. 28 flight to join the Boilermakers in Honolulu for the second half of the winter training trip.
Bjelajac's delayed arrival on campus was due in part to competing in the freestyle sprints at the European Short Course Championships, which were held from Dec. 13 to 17 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He's likely to make his Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center debut at Friday's co-ed dual vs. Michigan State.
Bjelajac joins teammate Ryan Lawrence (Oct. 18) as Boilermakers to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this season. Steele Johnson (four times) and Brandon Loschiavo have also been recognized as the Big Ten Diver of the Week. Divers did not compete at the Jan. 2 dual vs. Hawaii.
Twenty Purdue seniors will be recognized Friday prior to the Michigan State dual, which is the final co-ed meet of the season at the Burke Aquatic Center. The senior salute ceremony will again feature the iconic Big Bass Drum and get underway at 4:45 p.m. ET. The meet begins at 5 p.m.