Spotlight on Olympic Sports: 10/11 | Come on awesome Iowa

College sports are better when more athletes participate. I don’t think that’s a bold statement. The Iowa Athletic Department disagreed last year, however, when it went against that maxim by scrapping four different teams due to the pandemic, swimming and diving Men’s Swimming, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Men’s Tennis and Men’s Gymnastics. After a Title IX lawsuit filed by members of the women’s swim team, Iowa decided to reinstate women’s swimming and diving (although they weren’t exactly thrilled about it). It was a victory for the team and for the sport in general, but it left current Hawkeye swimmers in a state of uncertainty as athletes began to plan for a future outside of Iowa City or outside of swimming before receiving the news that their team would not cease to exist after all.

All the upheaval and back and forth has undoubtedly taken its toll on the team over the past few years and I’m sure the team was thrilled to kick off the 2022 season without having to look over their shoulders and fear for his sporting life. Even though it was just one encounter, the team certainly looked comfortable going into the water for the first time.

Spotlight on the Week: Hawkeye Swimming and Diving

The women’s swimming team beat UNI 197-102 last week to open their season. Iowa has won 13 events, including three from Alex O’Brien (1000 free, 500 free, 200 IM) and Scarlet Martin (50 free, 100 free, 100 fly). The Hawks also won the one and three meter springboard events on the diving side and set four pool records at the UNI-hosted event.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the encounter is the number of contributions from subclasses. O’Brien is a sophomore and Martin is a freshman. Lainey Woodward, who won the 1m springboard, is also a rookie. The tension and upheaval of the past year certainly affected the Hawkeyes who had grown up in the program, but my biggest fear that emerged was that even after the program was secured, its recruiting and retention would plummet. Would anyone like to participate in a program that the athletic department only supports by court order? Do current swimmers and divers feel respected and valued enough to run the program? At least at first glance, the answers to both questions appear to be a confident “yes.”

Coach Nathan Mundt deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team together or at least shielded from outside noise as much as possible. The women on the team are more than capable of being their own advocates (four Hawkeye athletes were the ones to wear the Title IX suit in the first place), but having a coach who supports you and creates space for you to focus on your sport is extremely valuable in a situation like this.

The Hawkeyes will likely pick up their pieces throughout the year as they look to regain the momentum and stability they had before their program was put on the chopping block. Last week’s quick start shows that the ease and focus that comes with being able to fully focus on their craft is already starting to pay off. Newcomers are already contributing and experienced team members will help ensure the return of the culture that existed before the crisis. It’s good to be optimistic for the team again and it’s great to see them excelling. The Hawks will be back in the water on October 21 when they face Nebraska.

Hawkeye Boost:
  • The Hawkeye field hockey team fell 2-1 in overtime to Penn State on Friday before bouncing back to beat No. 17 James Madison 1-0 on Sunday. Penn State’s loss was another heartbreak to a Top 5 opponent for the Hawkeyes, who must be frustrated that the rebounds haven’t gone their way this year. They’ve played closely with all the best opponents they’ve faced, but the key to their success in the playoffs will depend on finding a way to turn those overtime losses into wins. There’s no doubt that Coach Cellucci and the team are looking into it and they’ll definitely have a few more opportunities to show off their skills as the season progresses.

  • Iowa Volleyball lost a nail to No. 9 Purdue, falling three sets to two last Wednesday, but bounced back to beat Indiana in five sets Saturday. Iowa nearly upset one of the best teams in the country on the road last week and it’s becoming increasingly clear that this program is heading in the right direction. Turning narrow losses into consistent wins is a much easier step said than done, but this team has bought in and they’re competing. They can start making noise even sooner than I imagined.

  • Iowa football narrowly missed, losing 1-0 to Minnesota over the weekend. Iowa shot in double digits again, but again couldn’t find the back of the net. The Hawkeyes are doing enough to compete week in and week out, but they’re still looking for that consistent conversion that will get them past the milestone and into the win column.

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