Synchronized swimming funds cut, coaches laid off

The+team+celebrates+after+it+placed+third+in+the+national+championship.+%3Cbr%3E+Photo+from+Lindenwood+athletics.

The team celebrates after it placed third in the national championship.
Photo from Lindenwood athletics.

Merlina San Nicolás Leyva, Sports Editor

The Lindenwood women’s synchronized swimming team received an e-mail from the athletics department Friday, May 10, saying the team will be “reorganized in a different manner as it pertains to our non-NCAA programs.”

Lindenwood will no longer provide funds for the athletes to compete at tournaments, which includes entry fees, pool rental and travelling for competitions. The team will also have to sign up for tournaments as a student organization if they want to represent Lindenwood at collegiate events.

Last year, synchronized swimming coaches estimate Lindenwood budgeted about $80,000 for the team’s expenses.

“We were told to have a sudden meeting this morning with our coaches,” senior swimmer Kyra Hoevertsz said. “We were told that our program was cut completely from Lindenwood, and immediately tears started to fall from each team member.”

Update May 13, 10:52 a.m.

Over the weekend, coaches and synchronized swimming athletes rallied together on social media, calling supporters to action with the hashtag #standwithLUsynchro.

The coaches are encouraging the Lindenwood community and supporters of the team to send emails to the Vice President of Athletics Brad Wachler, the Dean of Students Shane Williamson, the Director of Residential Life Terry Russell and the Interim President of Lindenwood University, Art Johnson. All in hopes that the program can be reinstated and the school fundraises the team again.

The athletes and coaches also are encouraging people to express concerns to Kelly Moyich, the Title IV coordinator. The synchronized swimming team was the only student life sports program that was cut this year. It is also an all women’s sport.

FOX 2, a local news station covered the hashtag and talked to athletes who were affected.

Freshman Lindsay Papper came from Colorado knowing that Lindenwood was a “strong, successful synchronized swimming program,” Papper said.

“My dreams came true when I was able to come to the university and swim on the team,” Papper said. “I can say this last year was the best year of my life, swimming, furthering my education, and meeting my life long friends, it’s life changing to think that I will come back to this university in the fall with a piece of me gone.

Original story from May 10

Also, the synchronized swimming head coach, Mikayla Francese, and Assistant Coach Erika Guilbalt were laid off.

“Our coaches could barely look us in the eyes because of the embarrassment, angry, devastated feeling they had,” Hoevertsz said. “They explained they were both fired and had no chance to even fight for our program.”

One of the reasons the Athletic Department gave the coaches for the cut was that “pool expenses cost a lot and they are no longer able to financially support it anymore,” Francese said.

“We had a meeting this morning with human resources and the Vice President of Athletics and they basically said they were no longer going to fund us,” Francese said. “There were no warnings, no talks prior to making this decision, it was just that we were getting cut.”

Athletics gave coaches the option to stay as volunteers, without pay.

The Lindenwood Athletics Vice President Brad Wachler did not immediately respond for comment.

The team’s web page has been deleted from the Lindenwood Athletics website. Incoming recruits will be contacted by the school for a notice.

The synchronized team capped off its season at the 2019 U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships. The team successfully defended its elite top three ranking, finishing third overall at the national competition in March in San Antonio, Texas.

In the same event, the team earned gold for the first time in the program history for the A Element category with athletes Maria Lluc Bonnin, Marialaura Villasana and Hoevertsz.

“We have been winning national titles for eight years for Lindenwood,” Hoevertsz said. “This hurts all of the girls on the team because our team is all internationals. They came to Lindenwood to swim and get an education, and now their sport has been ripped out of their hands, and the worst part is they couldn’t even defend themselves.”

The team had 11 women on it. In the email sent to all of the synchronized swimmers, the athletics department said all current athletes will keep their scholarships.