Synchronized swimming funds cut, coaches laid off

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

MERLINA SAN NICOLAS | Reporter

The Lindenwood women’s synchronized swimming team received an e-mail from the athletics department Friday May 10, saying that 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 teams 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 have rallied together on social media, calling supporters to action with the hashtag #standwithLUsynchro.

View this post on Instagram

***HOW TO SUPPORT LU SYNCHRO*** We want to thank you all for your support over the last 24 hours. We have received hundreds of texts, calls, emails, messages from you and we could not be more grateful. As we continue to look into next steps, it has become evident that self funding this program is not a long term solution while maintaining the elite caliber of athleticism it has shown in the past 11 years. This is mainly due to the fact that we do not have a pool on campus, and the amount of money that it requires to rent pool space with additional expenses is beyond extreme. Secondly, with a majority of our athletes being international, they are not able to work legally in the US therefore leaving them without the means to pay for the expenses. That being said, we have made the decision to stand up, strong and united, to voice facts, concerns, and opinions in an effort to revert the universities decision so that funding can be reinstated for our program to continue. You can help by voicing your opinion to the University. PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL DIRECTLY TO the Vice President of Athletics, Brad Wachler, and CC the Interim President of the University, Art Johnson in addition to the Dean of Students, Shane Williamson, and Director of Residential Life, Terry Russell. You can find their email addresses on lindenwood.edu. We have always carried ourselves with grace and shown respect to those around us in the face of adversity. We ask that you follow this example and represent our program by doing so as well when speaking the truth. We also encourage you to share this post to all those in the synchro and St Louis community and hashtag our movement #standwithlusynchro. Again, we cannot thank you all enough for the amount of outreach! We are truly blessed. Now, this program itself; and all it’s community, past, current, and future, have to join hands to try and lift this program back on its feet.

A post shared by Lindenwood Synchro Swimming (@lusynchroswim) on

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 that 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 their season at the 2019 U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships. The team successfully defended their 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 scholarship.

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About Merlina San Nicolas Leyva 59 Articles
Merlina San Nicolás Leyva is our sports editor. When she is not covering a game or interviewing athletes, she is being an athlete herself. Merlina is on the bowling team and has competed for Team Mexico in past years. A native of Mexico City, she loves watching cooking shows or video essays on Youtube from NerdWriter1. She also enjoys playing video games, going on adventures or taking naps. After graduating, Merlina hopes to move to San Francisco to continue doing communications and photography for a professional sports team.