Swimming and diving team reflects on program’s legacy, elimination

by Will Ennis and Vikram Strander | 11/13/20 2:00am


Founded 100 years ago, the swimming and diving team was cut by the College in July.

Source: Courtesy of Parker Hershberger '22

This July, Dartmouth announced the elimination of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, in addition to four other varsity teams. Although the swimming and diving program came to an abrupt end, team members remember a legacy of success, teamwork and passion for the sport.

The program, which started in 1920, had been eliminated once before in 2002 as part of budget cuts by the College. After three months of campaigning by students, parents and alumni, the program was reinstated with the aid of the John C. Glover Fund for the Support of Swimming and Diving.

The $2 million fund was intended to support swimming and diving for the next decade or more. The fund was supported in large part by Dartmouth swimmers from the 1950s and was named in honor of John C. Glover ’55, a former swimmer who died of a heart attack while training for the 1956 Olympics.

This time, despite calls for reinstatement and accusations of anti-Asian bias, athletics director Harry Sheehy has made clear that the program will not be reinstated.

Women’s swimmer Ashley Post ’22, one of the team members fighting for reinstatement, said she will remember the team for the community it created.

“Being on the team is definitely the biggest part of my Dartmouth experience so far,” Post said. “And it helped me find a group of not only teammates, but more like friends and family.”

Men’s diver Justin Sodokoff ’21 and men’s swimmer Parker Hershberger ’22 both credited Dartmouth’s program with reigniting their passion for the sport.

“I honestly ended up picking Dartmouth because I didn't know if I had four years left in me,” Sodokoff said. “I spent my whole life diving, and I just thought I would come to school, quit and maybe have a normal college life. But the program gave the sport new life for me, and I can never honestly ask for anything else.”

Hershberger cited the “tradition, history and legacy” of Dartmouth swimming and diving as factors that motivated him to continue his swimming career.

“It gave me a great sense of pride to wear the D on my cap,” Hershberger said. “And once that was taken away, that was what hurt the most.”

On July 10, one day after the program was eliminated, an Instagram account called @save_dartmouthswimdive shared its first post, promoting a petition by swimmers and divers to get the program reinstated.

Sodokoff said that although the team would not consider its petition a true success without achieving reinstatement, the movement is currently focused on getting clarity over the reasons for the program’s elimination.

Hershberger said that he and a group of teammates have now secured a meeting with College President Phil Hanlon on Dec. 4 to discuss exactly that.

“We just would like an answer so that we can come up with a creative solution to

make this work for everyone,” Hershberger said. “We want our swimming and diving team back, but we also want Dartmouth to be able to get at what they want without having to cut student-athletes out of the picture.”

Men’s swimmer Ethan Moon ’22 said the College’s decision to cut the program was especially difficult because he had felt optimistic about the team’s future prospects.

“The swimming team was really becoming a challenger in the league, so there was sort of an expectation that within the next couple of years, we would be a top contender,” Moon said. “I think ultimately, our lower ranking in previous years was used against us when justifying why we were cut.”

Post echoed this sentiment, adding that she believed incoming recruits would provide the team with a chance to fight for an Ivy League championship.

“The swim team has come so far in the past couple years, and not only just seeing our team's success in the water, but seeing how our attitude and team mentality has gotten so much better because our coach was relatively new and the team was still up-and-coming,” Post said. “I thought we really had potential to keep moving up and ideally recruit more talented swimmers and build the team off of that.”

Both Post and Moon believe that most swimmers will not move to another sport or join the club swim team.

“I'm pretty sure that most people are not going to consider joining clubs because it's a totally different experience,” Post said. “For us to do clubs, it's so different because it’s not the same intensity.”