“You would think that with us hanging out in speedos together 20 hours a week, a relationship wouldn’t take long to begin—but it did.”
Kristen (Janeczek) Bocanegra, CCAS BA ’99, and Juan Bocanegra, CCAS BA ’00, SEAS, MS ’04, met on the GW pool deck in August of 1996—she was a sophomore and he was just starting his freshman year at GW—but it would take more than three years for them to go from teammates to sweethearts.
As member of the GW Men’s & Women’s Swimming teams, Kristen and Juan easily broke school records in the pool—Kristen set GW records as a member of several talented relay teams, and Juan (the A-10 Male Swimmer of the Year in 1998) set several GW records that stood for a decade or more—but breaking through the “friend zone” was a bigger challenge for the pair.
Both Juan and Kristen were in long-term relationships when they first met, and it wasn’t until after Kristen graduated from GW that they went on their first date. “Juan was finishing up at GW and I stayed in the area, and things were finally able to come together for us,” Kristen remembers, “but that didn’t last.”
The couple dated for a year before Juan’s studies took him to Costa Rica, ending their relationship.
Kristen and Juan thought they had swum their last lap together as a couple, but two years later Juan returned to GW to pursue his master’s in Computer Science. Back on D.C. soil, it wasn’t long before they reconnected and went out on their second “first date”—a Tuesday night at Drag Queen Bingo.
“The rest is history,” Kristen says. “We married in 2008, and our daughter Maya was born in November of 2014.”
The former GW student-athletes have many fond memories of their time together at GW. Kristen’s favorite is playing in the snow-filled streets of a completely silent city and sledding the Lincoln Memorial after a winter storm (the legality of which is up for debate). For Juan, it was checking out Kristen in a speedo daily (fair enough).
Kristen and Juan’s GW connection has become a family affair in recent years. Their daughter, Maya, was born at GW Hospital as part of the Midwifery Program, and Kristen’s brother married an amazing woman who just also happens to be a graduate of GW’s Organizational Sciences Graduate Program.
Even Kristen’s business—momme meals, an organic food company she started—has found its way to Foggy Bottom. The company’s bite-sized energy snacks, Go Chews, made their Whole Foods debut at the grocery store in Foggy Bottom Whole Foods last year and have also sponsored the GW Swim Team.
“GW was for both of us, our first home away from home, and the people there became our new family,” says Kristen. “Little did we know it would be the place we found ourselves and each other, only to one day build a family of our own. So much of our story and that which has yet to be written, is intertwined with GW.”
—W. Gray Turner