Former Iowa Star and Current Assistant Dealt Double Devastation By Program Cut (PETITION LINK)

Emma Sougstad celebrates a B-Final win in the 100 breaststroke at the 2016 NCAAs in Atlanta. Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Former Iowa Star and Current Assistant Coach Dealt Double Devastation By Program Cut (PETITION LINK)

When Emma Sougstad became an assistant coach at her alma mater, the University of Iowa, it was a dream come true.

Sougstad swam four years for the Hawkeyes, was an All-American her senior season, and became the first swimmer in school history to break 59 seconds in the 100 breaststroke in the last swim meet of her career.

So when the former Iowa assistant found out the news that the University would be cutting its swim team, it was understandably devastating.

“This was my dream job,” Emma Sougstad told Swimming World. “I loved my experience as an Iowa Hawkeye and wanted to be able to give that back to my athletes. I was able to accomplish things I never thought I could or wasn’t even aware of the opportunity and Marc (Long) was able to walk along side me for those four years so it meant the world to me to be able to do that with this cohort of athletes.”

Sougstad grew up in Forest City, Iowa, about three miles from Iowa City, and knew she wanted to be a Hawkeye when she first met coach Long in high school.

“I come from a small farming community and the University of Iowa gave me an opportunity that was unlike any other,” Sougstad said. “Marc Long came to my small town of Forest City, Iowa in 2011 and that was when I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye.

“He was an outstanding man, very ethical, very supportive and also didn’t make any promises that weren’t true. I decided this was who I want to swim for – I really like this program, the placement – here we go! It was the best decision I ever made and I love being a Hawkeye. I’m amazed at the family that I got when I accepted being a Hawkeye, from the people that were recruiting trips that were seniors that I am still friends with to the wonderful athletes that I have now.”

Emma Sougstad’s Iowa career culminated at the 2017 NCAAs when she finished sixth place in the 100 breaststroke with a 58.79. It was her first time breaking 59 seconds as she had swum a 59.00 the year prior to win the B-Final at the 2016 NCAAs. The destination could not have been sweeter for Sougstad, who had had shoulder surgery in May 2016, missing Olympic Trials, and an entire summer of training before her senior year.


Emma Sougstad at the 2014 Summer Nationals. Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

“It was scheduled to be a six month recovery but because of Mike Lawler, our athletic trainer, he was quite aggressive with our approach and I was able to accomplish my goals. He really was second to none.”

“Within three months of shoulder surgery I was back in the water and within nine months I was a first-team All-American and got to accomplish my goals and that was a gift I would love to give to every one of my athletes.”

It was a fairytale ending to her Iowa career, as Sougstad had entered college as a 1:03 breaststroker and ballooned into a three-time NCAA qualifier and four-time Big Ten A-finalist in the 100 breaststroke.

“I had no idea what potential I had but I had coaches that believed in me,” Sougstad said. “That’s what coaching is all about – giving people the chance to do something they didn’t know what they could do.”

So after graduating, she started working at Miami University in Ohio, and last season she had the opportunity to come back to Iowa and join forces with her former coach Marc Long.

“I love Marc Long. He was an awesome mentor in my life, an awesome mentor. He was the reason I came to the University of Iowa so it was a complete joy to work for Marc.”

She had been there as a coach for one season where the men finished sixth at Big Tens and the women finished in ninth. The Hawkeyes qualified two men and two women to NCAAs before the meet was ultimately cancelled to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Big Ten’s was the last meet Iowa was to swim – barring any turnaround decision by the university.

Sougstad has been in contact with dozens of alumni in the aftermath of the university cutting its swim program, feeling the togetherness of the Iowa family.

“I am so amazed at the outpouring support from our alumni,” Emma Sougstad said. “I had people sending me messages for our current student-athletes to know and it absolutely melts my heart. There is a sense of pride in being a Hawkeye so we can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for our program and the experiences they were able to have and share. I’m just amazed at how much they want to help. They’re taking care of our athletes and staff. I’m just amazed at the family that it truly is.”

A petition to help save the University of Iowa swimming and diving has been posted here.

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Joyce Flugum
Joyce Flugum
3 years ago

I’m sad that others won’t be able to participate in the program that Emma gained so much from.

Scott Carnahan
Scott Carnahan
3 years ago

Cutting programs is understandable as a way to save money in the short term. But the long term ramifications are a huge loss. By losing the quality of people that are involved in those programs and the successful people they become. You lose much more than a swimming or tennis team. These alumni often do more for the University and it’s image and fundraising and spreading the culture that makes the U if I unique and outstanding. I hope that these programs can be restored, when the financial status of the athletic department gets back on track.

3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Carnahan

Scott, I’m still trying to come to grips on how a total budget savings of $900,000 for all 4 programs killed off (Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving, Men’s Gymnastics and Men’s Tennis) does anything at all to help the $100MM loss the administration claims they could have this year. A 7.7% decrease in football salaries (we all know that will never happen) would pay for all 4 of these sports. Iowa Football salaries are, according to an article in Forbes, are $2.2 MM over the median salaries in the B1G conference. It doesn’t seem like a financial decision. It is even worse; it is political.

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