116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Iowa sophomore Mallory Jump felt embarrassed.
She had just transferred from Purdue University for what she hoped would be a positive restart to her collegiate swimming career. But four days later, on Aug. 21, Iowa announced women's swimming would be among four sports eliminated due to COVID-19 budget cuts. The women's program has since been reinstated.
'I just chose a school that doesn't even want their athletes,” Jump said.
As a freshman at Purdue, Jump shattered freshman records in the 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. But she liked the team atmosphere at Iowa better. She felt the culture wasn't a good fit at Purdue, noting the men's team wasn't as close to the women's as it was at Iowa.
The men's team at Iowa, by the way, has been eliminated, part of those same cuts.
Jump now is entering the transfer portal for a second time, her third time to go through a college recruiting process.
'I wanted to get through this season because, obviously, I just transferred here, so for me there was really no rush,” Jump said. 'But having to go through the recruiting process a third time for me has been super frustrating and very time consuming. It's really hard to balance doing schoolwork and doing calls with coaches.”
That'll wait until after she travels to the NCAA Championships with three other Hawkeye women to compete in the 100 fly, 200 fly and 200 IM, starting Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C.
Freshman Alyssa Graves and senior Kelsey Drake will join her on the swimming side. Drake will race in the same events as Jump, while Graves will compete in the 200 fly and 1,650 freestyle. Junior diver Sam Tamborski will compete in the 3-meter springboard.
Jump doesn't regret coming to Iowa. The friendships and bonds she's made have made her proud to wear the Tigerhawk on her chest on the national stage.
'Obviously, they made a bad decision, but at the end of the day, ... I'm still really proud to be a Hawkeye,” Jump said. 'What makes me proud to be a Hawkeye is my team.”
Graves feels differently.
'I like to be representative of my team,” Graves said. 'I don't have a problem putting on the Tigerhawk. It's just hard to represent the school.”
Graves said she hadn't even had her first COVID-19 test or met her teammates in person before the program was cut. Her first bonding experience with the team was coming together to hear the news of the cuts.
The reinstatement didn't provide the relief people may think.
'I just think that we got reinstated for the wrong reasons and they still don't necessarily care about us as much as they should,” Graves said.
In December, Graves struggled with a mental block and asked for help from a psychologist at the university. It was getting difficult to watch her teammates and coaches leave the program before she had the chance to compete.
So far, athletes have transferred to places like Iowa State, Georgia and Arizona. Iowa swimming and diving sports information director James Allan said at least seven freshmen abruptly left at the beginning of the season. Assistant coach Sarah Stockwell-Gregson left to work in operations at Indiana University, while another assistant left at the end of summer.
Dave Anderson, Graves' club coach from Schroeder YMCA Swim and Dive in Brown Deer, Wis., said Graves was able to get some comfort swimming in races back home intermittently in the fall and then over winter break. It was then she realized the work she was putting in shouldn't be diminished by a tumultuous season.
Anderson saw something different.
'She came home a couple times in the fall and I said, ‘Wow, you are looking spectacular in the water,'” Anderson said. 'She was able to get some competition in a comfortable, familiar environment, where she had enormous success, and then it started to become, like, holy cow, you're at a whole new level. It allowed her to create this vision: she saw that she had made great progress, which fueled this fire to continue to work at it.”
Anderson said the transfer process was difficult at first for Graves, who hadn't raced on the NCAA stage yet and wasn't heavily recruited out of high school, but her performance at the Big Ten Championships turned heads. She's exploring the idea of transferring to Purdue, but given the progress she's made, will make her final decision after NCAAs.
Anderson has seen the ripple effect of Iowa's decision on the senior class within his own club already. Anderson has been an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota and University of Nebraska in the past, so the news reached him quickly. In addition to Graves being there, he had two high school seniors, a girl and a boy, also committed to Iowa who had to look elsewhere.
'We were trying to find them a place to land and the one girl's parents met at the University of Iowa,” Anderson said. 'Her dad had played for Hayden Fry and went to a Rose Bowl. Her sister is a sophomore at Iowa. It's an Iowa family and the other boy, he's a wonderful swimmer. The girl landed at Kentucky. And the boy wound up in Cal, but it was a loss to the community to have the program threaten to go away.”
It's also much easier for women to transfer. According to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), an online recruiting service, there are 200 women's Division I swimming and diving programs across the country. There are only 143 men's programs, lower because sports like football take up many of the men's scholarship opportunities for schools trying to be compliant with Title IX.
But people like Jump and Graves prefer a school with both women's and men's programs.
Jump still is weighing her options. There was a point this year she thought about quitting swimming as her third recruiting process started to pick up. Her high school and club coach from St. Charles North High School and St. Charles Swim Team Club, Robert Rooney, kept her grounded, assuring her she shouldn't let go of the opportunity to be a collegiate athlete like she always wanted to be.
'This is just one of the obstacles in life you have to navigate and you can't quit,” Rooney said. 'Once you quit: it's done. I want her to find another place. I want her to be happy.”
Both the men's and women's teams finished in eighth place at the Big Ten Championships. The men will send sophomore Will Myhre to the NCAA Championships. Myhre broke the school record in the 100 breaststroke twice at the Big Ten Championships and is seeded 14th heading into the national championships next Wednesday.
For Graves, the 1,650 free is a longer race than what she typically swims, but her best time is the second fastest in school history. She came in at No. 6 in the Big Ten in the 200 fly, also capturing the second-fastest time in school history. Anderson, her club coach, said he knew she was good, but didn't expect her to compete on the national stage so early in her career.
The progress she's already made under Iowa head coach Marc Long shouldn't be understated.
Jump recorded the top three fastest times in school history in the 100 fly, finishing sixth overall at the Big Ten Championships.
Regardless of where either of the underclassmen end up, they've made their mark on Iowa swimming.
'I think these women represent really the core and the strength of the entire women's team here,” Long said. 'They got through this and, not only just got through this, but moved forward and got better.”
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