The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Dreams splashed for swimmers

By Jason Peterson

Seven weeks ago, Sydney Osmun was one of eight members of the U’s swimming team to receive a phone call. The voice on the other end said she was no longer needed and wished her well. Osmun, a mass communications major, had begun attending classes just two days before the call.

“Swimming is my life,” said the sophomore from Reno, Nev. “I feel like I really could’ve contributed to the team this year.”

Instead, the 2007-08 swim team, under new head coach Greg Winslow, will race without Osmun, as well as seven other walk-ons from last year’s roster. All eight students received the same phone call.

“It’s never fun to say, ‘Hey, your dream is over,'” Winslow said. “It’s not an enjoyable part of my job but I am responsible for doing what’s best for the program.”

Between June 20 and July 27, the team practiced with assistant coach Ron Lockwood. Since former head coach Michael Litzinger left the U in May for a coaching position at North Carolina, Lockwood acted as interim coach until Winslow’s arrival in the first week of August.

Winslow, 32, comes to Utah with an impressive resume of coaching some of the nation’s elite swimmers. During his latest tenure as an assistant with Arizona State, he helped cultivate 12 All-Americans, half of whom went on to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials.

During the summer, Winslow coached the Sun Devil Aquatics swim club until the season wrapped and Winslow moved to Salt Lake City.

“It was literally pack your bags, bring the family and drive to Salt Lake City,” Winslow said. “I wasted little time getting here.”

Once settled, Winslow issued an e-mail directed at all non-scholarship swimmers, as well as walk-ons hoping to make the U’s team this fall. The e-mail stated that there would be many changes this season and that all non-scholarship athletes must try out. Such changes are relatively common when new head coaches enter new programs, regardless of the sport. It is not uncommon for coaches to evaluate the current rosters and make snap judgments as to whether some athletes are worth keeping.

Barbara Silva, a sophomore who swam with last year’s squad, read the e-mail from her home near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Nothing in the e-mail, she felt, suggested that she was no longer on the team or that she had to re-earn her spot.

“I felt like I made a good contribution to the team last year so I didn’t think I would get cut,” Silva said. She helped the U women’s team win the MWC Championship with a 9-1 record last season.

Yet during the first three days of school, she and the aforementioned seven were competing for their swimming careers with freshmen and other potential walk-ons hoping to take their spots.

“I had to wait for athletes to show up to campus before we could begin the tryouts,” said Winslow. “Some of them didn’t show until the week before school started.”

The 45-minute tryouts consisted of a questionnaire, a brief essay, a physical fitness evaluation and a short swimming stint.

Silva, majoring in exercise science, said the athletes took the survey first. It asked what they had done to train for this season and why they deserve to be on the team.

“We ended up swimming for about 25 minutes and I don’t think that’s enough to tell how good someone is,” Silva said. “(The coaches) weren’t very specific in telling us what to do or what they were looking for. I thought he was looking for stroke techniques, so I took it easier in the water.”

Winslow said he and the assistants looked at more than just swimming techniques.

“I wanted to find out what kind of shape they were in,” he said. “We were also looking for athleticism. We can improve on their techniques, but it’s more than just a numbers thing.”

Winslow explained that there was limited pool space during practices, a result of coach Litzinger’s philosophy of bringing on a surplus of walk-ons last season.

“We’re crowded as it is,” Winslow said. “With 14 lanes and 40 swimmers, bodies are colliding all over the place.”

Sophomore Austin Gray, a mechanical engineering major, had more questions than answers when he received notice that he was let go from the team.

“The whole thing was kinda shady,” he said. “I wanted more direct answers but it was really hazy. I think they already had in mind who they were going to cut.”

Heidi Goedhart, another sophomore who was cut, said the coaches stated there simply wasn’t enough room for her.

“I was devastated,” Goedhart said. “I was really nervous during the tryouts because we were coming off the off-season, so it’s hard to do stuff that we normally do in mid-season shape.”

Goedhart, who came to the U from Idaho, plans to transfer next semester and hopes to latch on with another swimming program.

Silva was equally crushed when she heard the news.

“I told (Winslow) that I had been swimming since I was really young and now it was all taken away from me,” she said. “So he told me, ‘If it means that much to you, show me.'”

Six weeks later, Winslow conducted a private tryout for Silva. The results were the same.

“He told me I made lots of improvement, but there was still no room for me,” Silva said. “Those were the hardest six weeks of training in my life. I think he had already made up his mind before I even tried out.”

Upon learning of his daughter’s final cut, Silva’s father, Victor, flew in from Florida to speak with the coaches.

“Sometimes you get so upset with how much power people have in your life,” he said. “What is she supposed to do? She’s been swimming since she was six. It may not be a big deal five years from now, but it’s sad because she put her whole life around swimming.”

Winslow realized the late tryouts would bring such consequences, so he took action.

“I held those tryouts and called the students as early as possible,” Winslow said. “I made calls to other schools on their behalf to give them the best opportunity to transfer if they chose to.”

Senior Adrienne Coburn is currently on the U’s roster and enjoys swimming for Winslow.

“He’s really bringing us together as a team,” she said. “Everybody is sad to see (those who were cut) go, but I can see why he would do that.”

Still, the damage has been done. Osmun, like many of the others, came to Utah to swim. She contended that if she were looking for just an education, she could have chosen to attend a university closer to home.

“My parents are paying full tuition for me to come here and swim, but I could’ve gone somewhere else for cheaper,” she said.

These days, Silva spends her time as a volunteer coach for West High’s swim team. She feels that her own swimming career hangs in limbo as she debates whether to transfer or stick around for another shot at the team.

“Truthfully, I think she feels out of place,” Silva’s father said. “It’s embarrassing. It’s demoting. Swimming can be such a lonely sport. Once you’ve created a relationship with your team, it’s hard to break that bond.”

To read Greg Winslow’s preseason e-mail, click here.[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy here.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *