Swimming Fades into History
Xpress takes a look at the history of the swim team as SF State's swimmers prepare for their final laps
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The dark wooden plaque on the wall will be covered in dust, the names and times barely readable, the high ceiling will cease to echo the loud cheers it once did and the water will no longer splash with the familiar sounds of swimmers working hard at practice.

After more than 74 years, the SF State swim teams are doing their final laps at the swamp. This is the final season for the men and women’s swim teams. The teams are being cut by the athletics department due to SF State’s outdated swimming facility. The team was actually cut four years ago, but an extension was granted so the swimmers on the team could finish out their commitments.

“The Gators have produced 30 All-American swimmers over the years,” reads the press release announcing the decision to cut the teams. This statement falls dramatically short of even beginning to describe the SFSU swim teams “over the years.”

“I learned how to be a good athlete on the SFSU swim team,” said Bebe Bryans, 46, a 10-time All-American at SF State and 1991 rowing world champion. Bryans is head coach for women’s crew at Michigan State.

Participating in SF State's swim team was an eye opening experience for many of the athletes.

“It opened up a lot of doors for me being back in the water,” said Kathy Huang, a former SFSU swimmer and current director of aquatics at the University of San Francisco, “It got me back into aquatics.”

"Being a part of the SFSU swim team is not just like being a part of a team, it’s like joining a family,” says SF State junior and current women’s team captain, Bridget Morris.

“It was the first real team experience I’d ever had,” said Chris Culp, 30, SF State swimming coach. Culp was an All-American for SF State in 1997.

This program that has meant so much to so many throughout the years is ending, but it will not be forgotten. Its long history is a testament to the fact that swimming has always been a part of SF State.

In 1922, women’s swimming at SF State started when the ladies of the State Teachers College formed a swim club at the old Sutro Baths. The “lusty mermaids,” as they were called, met once a week to learn and perfect their strokes. The club was very popular, and in 1927 “tricky diving,” canoeing, Red Cross life saving and resuscitation certification courses were added to the curriculum.

The women’s club held inter-class meets and met once a year with the Y.W.C.A for a friendly competition of racing, fancy diving, distance plunge (like a long jump, but for swimmers) and balloon burst races, in which swimmers would race to one end of the pool, then blow up a balloon until it burst and then swim back. They also played water polo, put on synchronized swimming shows and silly skits to entertain the crowds.

“Sounds like they had a lot of fun back then,” said Margarita Dejesus, 22, former SF State swimmer. “Too bad the team can’t start up those traditions again.”

With the addition of men’s swimming in 1929, swimming at SF State was more popular than ever.

In 1948, when Olympic diver Patsy Elsner entered SF State she was regarded as a celebrity on campus. Often pictured in the school paper, she even had her own photo spread in the 1949 yearbook. Elsner was the first of a number of bathing beauties to be featured in the school paper.

In 1950 SF State expanded beyond being just a Teacher's College and the Gator swimmers got their own pool. From the 1950s to the early 1980s the pool was also used for scuba diving, Red Cross life saving, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo.

However, it wasn’t until 1977 that women dived into the swamp as official varsity Gator swimmers.

Under the guidance of coaches Harold Zane (1978-1982), Bob Madrigal (1982-1985), Stu Khan (1985-1989), and Bruce Brown (1989-1999) many women gained All-American honors and the women’s swim team churned up the water.

Bryans, whose 1986 records in the 50 yards free (23.95) and 100 yards backstroke (59.24) still stand, credits Coach Madrigal and a supportive team with helping her to become a better swimmer and a successful coach today.

“The quality of coaching, and the acceptance of my teammates even though I was older was exactly what I needed in my life at that point, and helped shape me in my current profession as a Division I Rowing Coach,” said Bryans.

In 1989 Gina Indesano, set five records that still stand at SF State. In 2000, she qualified at an Olympic triathlon trial and, in 2002, SF State inducted her into the school Athletics Hall of Fame.

Bruce Brown earned Coach of the Year honors twice, in 1993 and 1997.

“He was the first coach I had that wasn’t just your coach but your friend as well,” said Culp.

Culp become an assistant coach in 1998 and later in 2000 head coach. At the beginning of the 2000-2001 season the athletic department informed Culp of the decision to cut the team, but later granted a four-year extension. Culp, alumni and swimmers were all outraged and saddened by the news.

“I'm certain it wasn't an easy decision,” said Bryans. “It should never be an easy decision to quit on such a long tradition.”

As the legacy of SF State's men's and women's swim teams end, it is important
to look back and remember. The once spacious pool is now an outdated swimming facility, but from the team’s beginning to its now sad ending it has been clear that a pool was never the only thing that made the team successful. Hard work, friends, fun and support were the key ingredients to this program.

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PHOTO
Johanna Luddy | newspaper photo editor
In the final season of SF State's swim team, Taso Kolonelos works on his breast stroke in the campus' "outdated swimming facility," as deemed by the athletics administration in its decision to cut the men and women's swim teams. The campus lacks the funds to build a new pool.

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