Michigan State, Discontinued at Varsity Level, Wins Club National Title

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

Michigan State, Discontinued at Varsity Level, Wins Club National Title

Michigan State’s swimming and diving team, which last year was cut as a varsity program, has won the 2022 College Club Swimming title.

The Spartans tallied 1,070 points at the meet, which concluded April 10 at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center. That narrowly edged Virginia’s 1,065, with Florida third.

Leading the way was Travis Nitkiewicz and Kasey Venn, who won six titles each. Both are juniors who were recruited as varsity athletes.

Nitkiewicz won the men’s 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke plus the 200 individual medley. He also swam breast on the Spartans’ winning 200 medley relay and was part of the victorious 200 free relay.

“Joining MSU swim club has been arguably the best thing that happened to me this year,” Nitkiewicz said in a press release by Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive. “They are fun, genuine, kind, and they helped remind me why I love the sport and the team. Winning a national championship with this group was an awesome way to close out a good year.”

On the men’s side, he was joined by Stephan Freitag, the champion of the 100 fly and 100 IM. The sophomore also swam on three winning relays. Evan Stanislaw was on all three of those, while Kirk Maibach anchored a pair of winning men’s relays.

Venn won the women’s 100 and 200 breast to go with the 100 IM and 50 fly. She swam on the victorious women’s and co-ed 200 free relays.

“(Swim Club) were all so welcoming to our varsity team members which was really awesome,” Venn said. “It was super cool to show up at the club national meet and show everyone that many of us are still fully committed (even going some best times), and then to win it all as a team made it even better.”

Sydney Kelly, a sophomore, set an early tone by claiming the 400 IM and 200 fly. She also claimed the 200 free. Sheridan Phalen won the women’s 50 free for the Spartans, led off the 20 free relay with Venn, Kelly and Sophia Balow, and anchored the co-ed relay. Balow won the 1,000 free. Anne-Kathrin Bucher claimed the 50 breast.

As a club sport, the athletes receive little to no support from the university, training independently.

Michigan State announced in October 2020 its intention to cut the varsity program at the end of the 2020-21 season. Despite a vigorous campaign, of public advocacy and lawsuits against the university, the administration in East Lansing has not budged. The organization formed by program alumni remains active in that pursuit.

“We are incredibly proud of these student-athletes who continued training despite the challenge put in

front of them by President (Samuel) Stanley with the cutting of the varsity program,” said Tom Munley, an MSU Men’s Swimming and Diving alum and member of the Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive. “We are not at all surprised by their success, and we hope that this national championship receives the same recognition as the water polo team got from the Trustees and President Stanley. With that being said, recognition alone is not enough. We believe this demonstrated competitiveness adds another reason to reinstate both programs at the next BOT meeting.”

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