There isn’t an NCAA in Estonia. No college recruiters or flashy promoters. So back in 2011, rising UMBC senior Lauri Käi had to get onto the radar of UMBC men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Chad Cradock ’97, psychology, the old fashioned way: grit, determination, and some timely word of mouth from other Estonians – including Herol Marjak ’13, history, and Johan Rohtla ’14, biochemistry – who have swum competitively at UMBC.

Flash forward three years. Käi is one of the top performers on UMBC’s successful swimming and diving teams, chalking up individual achievements and s14-atplay-kaeiflyhelping the university’s 200- and 400-yard medley relay teams finish at the top of the America East Conference.

And like many UMBC student-athletes, Käi has been just as successful in the classroom, double majoring in political science and philosophy with minors in international affairs and legal policy.

UMBC was a very different experience from higher education in Estonia. “It seemed really big!” Käi observes. “Universities back home are just buildings that are spread out around the city, but there’s no actual campus.”

Käi hopes to attend law school in the United States after graduation and plans to enjoy his last year of competitive swimming for UMBC.

Cradock observes that “it has been great to watch [Käi] grow as a person. He’s someone that supports his teammates, cares a lot for the sport, and is invested in the betterment of himself. I know when he gets into the real world, whatever he does, he’s going to be extremely successful.”

— Katharine Scrivener

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