USA TODAY US Edition
Clemson swimmers on mission
Elimination of team drives four at NCAAs
CLEMSON, S.C. — Driven by the decision to end the swimming program at Clemson and defiant of additional obstacles thrown in their paths, four young men enter the NCAA championships this week determined to establish an enduring legacy.
Eric Bruck, Seth Broster, Chris Dart and Chris Reinke represent a team that rewrote school records this season despite a challenging training schedule foisted upon them when their home pool sprung a leak during routine maintenance.
Imagine, for example, if the basketball team had been forced since Christmas to practice 18 miles away and play home games 75 miles away at the University of Georgia.
That came after a move last spring by athletics director Terry Don Phillips to cut swimming after the 2011-12 school year, citing an unwillingness to invest further in a program that had not been significantly competitive.
“To be blunt, we just wanted to make them look like they made a terrible decision,” said Reinke, a junior.
Phillips said this week that despite a campaign to reverse the decision by parents, alumni and swimming enthusiasts, he had not altered his stance.
Said coach Chris Ip, in his ninth year at Clemson: “We wanted to honor a program that’s been around for over 100 years. We wanted to honor the promises to each other when we recruited them. . . . Then with the facility going down, that put another hurdle in front of us. It’s actually been crazy.”
Each of the four will be in at least one individual event at the NCAA meet beginning today in St. Paul, and they qualified in the 400-meter freestyle relay, the first group from Clemson to do since 1989, and the 200 freestyle relay.
Regardless of how they score, they plan to return for the final season. The NCAA waives transfer rules in such circumstances, but they’re resolved to see it to the bitter end.
“The only thing wecando is keep trying to do our best and push forward,” Reinke said. “There’s nothing we can do but keep going.”