By: Timothy Lee
With a few calls on his phone, Kevin Miller, 18, sat down on a long table at the corner of the west food court of the Student Center. Shortly after, 3 men and a woman then sat down around him with different types of food and began to talk to each other. One last person then sat down, joining in on the conversation. The dialogue is laced with laughs and hardly featured any silence with the noise in the background. This represented the majority of the freshman swim team at UCI where the only thing missing is the swimming.
Looking around the table, this group of friends whose swimming careers in UCI ended before there was one, began eating. All the swimmers on the table were 18 and freshman, part of the largest recruiting class in all the UC’s. There was Troy Edwards, 18 biology, Nicholas Korth, 18 undecided, Kierstin Colesen, 18 undecided, Martin Vaynek, 18 biology and Michael Dosal, 18 civil engineering, all talking with Miller on class and schedules before the tape recorder clicked on. Each swimmer talked about plans and agendas for swimming in the future but most were set on the idea of transferring to continue their career.
“I don’t want to have to leave, but if the team doesn’t come back, I will probably transfer out,” Michael Dosal said.
Eating lunch remains one of the last bonding events that these freshman swimmers had now that any official competitions and practices for the school are gone. Despite this, the group still practices to continue training in swimming.
“We, as a group of freshman have already grown so close together, we want to stay in the water and we want to stay close,” Kevin Miller, 18 psychology and social behavior, said. “We don’t want to separate and drift apart because that would signal the end of our program.”
Lately, however, most of the swimmers have dropped out of the unofficial 5:45 a.m. practices at Crawford aquatics.
“At first it started out with most of the whole team,” Kierstin Colesen said. “But now it’s mostly freshman swimming at practice with a few upper classmen.”
These freshman swimmers continue the traditions of the team by having individual practices and attending meetings as well as attempt to get that large donor to help their cause. With a website set up to accept donations, www.anteaterswimminganddivingfoundation.org, the remaining swimmers are holding out hope for the program to be saved.
“We’re looking for bigger donors, we looked into Donald Bren but that was unsuccessful,” Nicholas Korth said. “Now, we’re looking into Mr. Peter Ueberroth.”
The swim team has to look for big name donors who can deliver large sums of money. Ueberroth, American executive, would be a very powerful ally with his influence over the decision-makers. Having served as the sixth commissioner of the MLB and a chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, it would be a step in the right direction. The swim team does have the backing of the Irvine Company who can give powerful support if the funds are met.
There exist, however, a few different options to continue swimming near the school. One option, the UC Irvine Master’s Swim Club, offers workouts and a couple competitions for adults but absorbs a few collegiate swimmers. Lately, many college swimmers have stopped showing up in preparation to transfer.
“A lot of these kids were focused on transferring and then once school started, their grades were what mattered most,” Bill Browne, Master’s Swim Club coach said. “A lot of them stopped showing up at workouts, before I had the whole team.”
The other option, the Aquazot Swim Club, is coached by former UCI swim team head coach, Brian Pajer. The swim club offers training and practices for all ages and competition and took in many collegiate swimmers as well.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough space to incorporate all of the college swimmers into the Aquazots’ team because our space is quite limited,” Brian Pajer said. “There’s a few that are coming in and doing workouts, some are working at Master’s and some are working individually. Everyone is trying to find a way to stay in shape this year so they can transfer next year in case the program doesn’t come back.
Brian Pajer serves as a representative of the fighting spirit of the swim team. Having already voiced his willingness to forego his paycheck during the fight to lower the team’s budget, Pajer has already shown the sacrifice that is evident in the remaining members of the team.
“It would allow for the program to exist. It wasn’t ideal; I’m not a rich guy, but I could find a way to make it work for the next 6 months and give us this one more season to raise the money and save the program. It would have gave us the last 5-6 months to really attack the problem and see how much money we could raise at that time,” Pajer said.
Pajer continues to be a large influence on the grassroots movement to saving the team even with his unemployment to UCI. His optimism represents the attitude of everyone that remains and practices at 5:45 a.m. in the dark or separately brings to the cause.
“I hope that over the next 6 months, someone will give a big donation and that would create what we need to bring it back,” Pajer said. “But if that’s not the case, it may be a matter that we would need a referendum to pass or if we find another revenue source to make it attractive to be brought back. Those are really the best chances. Whenever it comes back, it won’t take too long to bring everything back together and into a positive direction.”