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MU sophomore Kalie Lastagarkov is a lifeguard and swim instructor for the Strauss Peabody Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Manchester University will hire a coach to start a swim club in fall 2014, with an eye toward NCAA Division III team competition the following school year, said Rick Espeset, athletic director. The team will practice and compete at Strauss Peabody Aquatic and Fitness Center. Both a men’s and women’s teams are planned.
A sizable gift from an anonymous donor is making the swim program possible, said Melanie Harmon, executive director of development. Use of North Manchester’s Aquatic Center by MU athletes and assistance in operation of the facility will strengthen the University’s connection with the community, Harmon said. “And importantly, this gift helps Manchester continue to offer affordable excellence in higher education,” she added. "We are grateful for our donors who generously come forward to put our students first."
“We hope that the swimming coach also will join our exercise and sport sciences faculty,” Espeset said. “This also gives us opportunity to add diversity of subject matter to our faculty.” Manchester will conduct a nationwide search to fill the position. The new coach also will recruit student-athletes.
Sophomore freestyler Kalie Lastagarkov can think of 20 MU students who are ready to sign up for collegiate club swimming. “I’ve been swimming since fourth grade … I’ve always been around it,” said the management and marketing major who swam on the Griffith (Ind.) High School team.
Lastagarkov already considers the Aquatic Center home waters – she’s a lifeguard and teaches swimming there.
MU will share the pool with community programs and swimmers, the Manchester High School swim team and an organization of young swimmers. The University will finance any physical or fiscal accommodations for the MU teams at the community pool, and will pay a lease.
The MU swim club will be open to any full-time University student, with an anticipated 20 to 30 student-athletes competing in a non-varsity swimming environment at the collegiate level. After a year, if all goes as planned, the team will be ready for NCAA Division III competition.
Many colleges and universities have swim clubs. As in wrestling and other individual sports, NCAA swimming competition begins at the regional level. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which is Manchester’s conference, currently does not award a championship in the sport.
Manchester will be the fifth HCAC school to sponsor swimming. The University has 19 other NCAA women's and men's teams. The swim teams will add two more.
Swimmers tend to be strong students academically because of the tremendous individual discipline and training required, Espeset said. "Adding a sport emphasizes the value that Manchester puts on the student-athlete experience as part of their overall educational experience. We look forward to providing that opportunity for more of our students."
NCAA Division III student-athletes do not receive scholarships to compete for their schools. The student truly comes first in the equation, giving them valuable lessons in teamwork, discipline, perseverance and leadership. More than 440 MU student-athletes compete in NCAA Division III sports.