Former Western Kentucky Incoming Freshmen Find Their Fit A Second Time

Photo Courtesy: Western Kentucky University athletics

By Kaylie Noll, Swimming World Intern

For those striving to compete at the collegiate level, senior year is the year that most swimmers pore over school information, talk to coaches, and go on recruiting trips. By the closing months of this important year, most student-athletes know which team they are committing to for the next four years of their lives. But what happens when your school’s program is cut?

This past April, the swimming community was shocked at the suspension of Western Kentucky University’s swimming and diving program for five years.

According to the team’s website, the athletes will be able to transfer immediately, although scholarship awards would not be taken away from current members of the team if they chose to stay. Therefore, if collegiate swimming is a lifestyle that Western Kentucky team members and incoming freshmen can not just let go, they had to scramble for spots on a completely different team, at a completely different university.

Hearing the News

For incoming freshmen Rachael Kelch and Joey Janisse, the news of the program’s suspension hit hard.

Kelch, a member of club team Peoria Area Water Wizards (PAWW) from Peoria, Illinois, explains her disbelief saying, “I read an article about it and didn’t think this would happen to the team I chose. I wondered how my new friends on the team were taking it.” Kelch also worried if she would be able to swim at all during her freshman year of college.

Janisse, from Jackson, Missouri and a member of River City Aquatics (RCA) used the words “sad” and “disappointed” when recalling the moment he heard the news, especially since he would be unable to follow in his family’s footsteps as a WKU Hilltopper.


Photo Courtesy: Joey Janisse

It was quite a blow for the two that had just been getting used to the idea of being at Western Kentucky University for the next four years. Both remember their recruiting trips fondly.

“There was a close knit, family atmosphere, and I really got along with the girls because they had positive attitudes,” Kelch said. “They focused on getting better at swimming but also focused on grades and school because the girls had high grade point averages.”

Her description of why she committed to Western Kentucky supports Janisse’s.

“My recruiting trip was awesome,” Janisse remembers. “Very outgoing people that treated me like family.” Yet their WKU experience came to a close much too quickly.

Starting Over With the Search

After the initial shock, reality began to sink in for the two, who now had to begin their search for a good fit both for academics and athletics all over again. Both seniors agreed that the process was stressful, with many spots for scholarship swimmers already taken. However, the second time around, they both knew exactly what they were looking for in a university and swim program.

Kelch visited multiple schools in a short period of time before going on a recruiting trip to San Diego State University. From her arrival, she knew there was an immediate connection.

“The girls at San Diego State embraced me as soon as I met them. It made me feel really accepted as a part of the team.”

Not only was the team a good fit, but she describes the campus and facilities as “beautiful” with a great academic program as well. Now officially signed to swim next year, she is more eager than ever to start her freshman year.


Photo Courtesy: Rachael Kelch

In turn, Janisse found his new future team at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. His requirements, which include “a decent-sized school—but nothing too big, a team that has some speed that I can compete against in practice, and a campus near a big town that I could find a job out of college” all were met.

His decision was further solidified during his visit, when “the team treated me like I was already on the team.” He is excited to move onto campus and compete for the UW-GB team this fall.

Moving Forward

Although the circumstances presented were rather unlucky, Kelch and Janisse have no regrets and are moving forward.

“At the time, committing to Western Kentucky was the best decision for myself and my family,” Kelch wisely concluded. “The connections I made while I was committed to WKU will stay with me for a long time and the people from Western Kentucky will continue to be successful elsewhere.”

Kelch and Janisse both experienced a complicated turn of events when their futures were up in the air after the suspension of their originally-chosen program. Nevertheless, they stayed level-headed and kept diligently searching for the university and swim team that would be the right fit. Here’s to the hope that the two of them and the rest of the Western Kentucky swimmers, divers, and former recruits have found their new homes.