Scorned swimmers look to transfer

By Jourdon LaBarber
Sports Editor

synchroThe girls of the synchronized swimming team gathered on the back bleachers in the pool room at the Koessler Athletic Center; head coach Jill Wright stood in front of them. The room had fallen silent since she walked in, and she’s spent several minutes without saying a word, periodically turning to look back towards the empty pool where she built her program. She was crying.

Her team had joked throughout the day in regards to why they were called for a 9 p.m. meeting. They entertained possibilities such as their coach announcing she’s having a child or delivering news in regards to her upcoming wedding. Worst case scenario, they thought, they’re dropping the program … but that would never happen.

When the worst possible scenario did in fact happen, the girls quickly joined their coach in showing their emotion. The room became “deflated” as those who filled it came to the realization that their beloved program would never be the same.

“It was kind of numb to me, it didn’t really hit me personally, I was just wondering and thinking back through this year, wonder if it was worth it and what I was going to do in the future and if I made the right decision coming to Canisius,” freshman Laura Schmidt said.

The Griffs’ freshman swimmers will certainly have decisions to make regarding their future, with the team set to enter a transition year from varsity to club level next season before becoming club full-time in the subsequent years. Once the team goes club, they will lose all funding and will almost certainly struggle to compete at the national level.

In the swimmers’ eyes, competing at the club level is unacceptable. The club level is largely comprised of beginners who are simply looking to take up synchro as a sport. As for girls like Schmidt and fellow freshman Laina Gray, who’ve spent their entire lives around the sport, the decision has spun them back into the process of college-searching as they look to continue their careers.

“Laina and I both, we had identical college processes … we chose this school over other schools and we already went through the college process, why would we do it again? Why would we do it to ourselves? It’s a nightmare,” Schmidt said.

“Our freshman swimmers are varsity-level swimmers, they should not have to swim at a club level with less options for them,” outgoing senior Missy Andrews said.

Despite the overwhelming process of selecting a new school, it still hasn’t deteriorated the freshmen’s desire to transfer out of Canisius. While Gray seems content in waiting until after the transition year before finding a new school, Schmidt is actively trying to transfer to Stanford University, which stands as one of the four remaining schools with a varsity-level program.

Whether or not she is allowed to transfer remains to be seen, as the reclassification news didn’t come until after most school’s deadlines had passed. This aspect alone has been the cause for the majority of the team’s discontent; they feel the matter was treated carelessly.

“As it is now, it’s extremely hard for me to transfer, I have to pull strings with admission and the coach – does the coach even want me? That’s a question I have to ask too,” Schmidt said. “If it happens that on May 1 the coach and admissions tell me that I’m able to apply, I will go, there’s no question.”

The school, meanwhile, stands by their decision, stating that the decision wasn’t made until days before the girls’ participation in the national championships and their aim was to protect the girls from distractions. Still, whether you chalk it up to the heat of the moment or a justified feeling of disrespect, the girls continue to reject the explanation.

As the sides continue to disagree in regards to the handling of the situation and the treatment of one of the school’s most successful programs, the swimmers will actively push to secure a future at the varsity level – be it getting Canisius to change their mind or finding a new home.


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