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Adversity hits swim team once again

February 28, 2014

The UW-River Falls men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams pride themselves in coming together as one team this year, and will continue to do so with their upcoming dilemma.

“We are not a huge team but when you combine the two, you spend a lot of hours and time together and it really grows into a team bonding experience,” junior swimmer and men’s team captain David Zaske said. “You saw that at the beginning of the year when it did not look like we would have a coach. We all came together to find Coach Bollinger which was all through that team and family bond we have, but there will be more of that coming our way.”

Junior Lucus Hetzel swims a distance event earlier this season at the River Falls High School.
Junior Lucus Hetzel swims a distance event earlier this season at the River Falls High School. The town hall meeting will be hosted from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 3, in the Blanche Davis Theatre in Kleinpell Fine Arts. (Kathy M. Helgeson/University Communications)

Earlier this year the team was able to find Mike Bollinger with less than a month until the season started after two candidates had withdrawn their names from the job and the athletic department told the team they were in danger of being suspended.

After coming together to save their the season the team is facing the possibility of losing their program yet again just days after their final meet ended. They recently received an email on behalf of the Chair of the Faculty Senate Athletic Committee Grace L. Coggio.

In the email the team was told that the Athletic Committee, chaired by Coggio, along with Athletic Director Roger Ternes and Assistant Athletic Director Crystal Lanning, will host a town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 3, in the Blanche Davis Theatre in Kleinpell Fine Arts. The meeting will be held to gather information and discuss the $1.7 million university-wide budget cut, its impact on the UWRF sport module and the future of the swimming and diving program. Everyone including the public is invited to attend this meeting.

“This meeting will allow for public input, help to provide an understanding of the overall budget and allow the opportunity for students and athletes to share their thoughts,” Coggio said.

Coggio said she would be available for more comments after the meeting when there is a better understanding of what will happen.

“We get done with conference Sunday and a couple days later we get this email saying the program might be cut,” Zaske said.

This is not the first time the UWRF swim program has been in danger. A story in the Student Voice from Cristy Brusoe on Nov. 19, 2009, reported that in June 2009 the UWRF swimming pool that was located in Karges broke down. This led to three public meetings throughout the fall of 2009 discussing whether or not the program would be cut. After the meetings the Athletic Committee voted 6-1 to keep the team leaving the final decision to the chancellor who decided to keep the team. The team has used the River Falls High School swimming pool ever since.

This season, the UWRF swim teams did not have a tremendous season overall, and finished the season with two sixth place finishes at the WIAC meet last weekend.

“We got off to a rough start having Bollinger come in late but once we got going it was a good season. We settled down and times starting dropping,” Zaske said. “Having a new coach can always be a shock until you get used to him but he is a great coach.”

Junior swimmer Candy Hoelzel said the season went really well and the team had a lot personal bests and top ten times that is not updated yet because the team just got back Sunday from competing at the final meet.

Hoelzel said Bollinger helped to keep the aspect of being one team and being a family.

“He is big on not quitting on each other. We had some practices where he set up chairs alongside the pool and had us sprint as fast as we could for a certain amount of time. He said if we decided to quit we could get out, sit in one the chairs and watch everyone else suffer without getting to go back in. Nobody ever quit,” Hoelzel said.

The team has kept the mentality of not quitting on each other throughout this season, including right when they received the email from Coggio.

“There is a lot of talk about going to this meeting and trying to get everybody to show up and show support for the team,” Zaske said. “I got a hold of everybody last night and talked to them about it. Everyone is expecting the worst from it because at the beginning of the year we saw that scare of being suspended and we are assuming this could be the end for us.”

Hoelzel said that a number of students that were going to come to UWRF to swim this year did not end up coming because they were unsure if there would be a program. She said that there are a number of members on the team that could transfer to a school that has a team if the program gets cut which would cause the school to lose money as well.

“I could not be happier with how the season turned out. There was some great times and team bonding and I just looking forward to hopefully being back next year,” Zaske said. “We hope for the best but expect the worst.”