Tuesday, January 31, 2023

MSU swimmers dive into season with an uncertain future

January 26, 2021
<p>A Michigan State contestant locks her goggles into place before the first race of the meet. Michigan State hosted the swim and dive meet against Oakland on Jan.18, 2020.</p>

A Michigan State contestant locks her goggles into place before the first race of the meet. Michigan State hosted the swim and dive meet against Oakland on Jan.18, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The MSU swim and dive teams are still out there with their swim caps and suits on competing for MSU.

Still competing – following an announcement this past October that the men's and women's teams would be cut due to financial strains brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, they won't get to suit up in the pool against their Big Ten foes anymore.

Saturday, for the seemingly final time as a varsity sport at MSU and with a lawsuit filed on behalf of the women's team, MSU dove into the pools of their biggest rival: the University of Michigan.

While competing with heavy hearts, the women's team scored a 185 to 48 win over Rutgers, but fell 146 to 107 to Michigan, as the men’s team was defeated 159 to 77 by Michigan as well.

As the rival schools faced off for what could be the last time, Michigan swimmers showed solidarity with MSU as they chanted “Go green...Go White,” while their coaches sported masks that read, “save our sport” and “save MSU swim and dive.”

Even within the heat of competition that comes with a rivalry, the swim and dive community stands strong together, no matter what school logo they wear.

“I’m just really proud of our athletes,” said head coach Matt Gianiodis in a press release. “There’s been a lot of starts and stops and practice interruptions, and through all of that I think our athletes have done a great job of staying focused on their process.”

But this process has so many distractions for those competing.

Senior swimmer Aidan Farley at least gets his final ride, which began Saturday in Ann Arbor. But it doesn't mitigate the anger he feels when many believe MSU didn't justifiably cut their teams.

“Everyone’s initial reaction, obviously, was sadness and anger," Farley said. "Everyone was pretty upset with the athletic administration. We kind of felt like we got blindsided because no one really expected it.”

Even though Farley is a senior and this is his last season regardless – he expressed his sympathy for his younger teammates.

“This has been hard for me, but I can’t imagine what the juniors and all the underclassmen are going through,” Farley said. “There’s still a weird feeling at practice because everyone knows this could be our last season.”

Sophomore Travis Nitkiewicz is among the MSU swimmers who dealt with these struggles.

“It’s been very difficult for us to both look elsewhere to transfer and find places that still have available scholarships left,” Nitkiewicz said.

Nitkiewicz said that due to this he will not transfer because of the limited time for his search as well as the fact that the NCAA only allows athletes to transfer 60 credits, that it isn’t worth it to lose a whole year of school.

It's a bad situation with academics tying Nitkiewicz to a school that he can't compete for after this year.

The women’s team led the rankings with a 3.87 team GPA, while the men ranked sixth with a team GPA of 3.71. Evidence that the athletes of MSU Swim & Dive epitomize the ideals of student-athlete competition at the NCAA Division I level.

“It is kind of bittersweet, just with the recent news, with the team being dropped,” Farley said. “ ... It shows the determination and grit this team can endure.”

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Even with all the outside drama around the team, Farley said the team is finally getting their competitive edge back and they are excited to race again.

The teams focus on what is going on between the lanes they swim while so much noise tries to distract them from why they don their uniforms in the first place.

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The program refuses to go down without a fight and has seen an unprecedented amount of support over the recent months, largely through social media as the Instagram page named "@battleforspartanswimanddive" is up over 4,000 followers.

The men’s and women’s teams continue their season on Feb. 5-6 as they go on the road to take on Penn State.

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