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North Iowa native speaks about discontinuation of University of Iowa athletic programs: 'Absolutely devastating'

Last week, the University of Iowa announced it would cut 4 varsity athletic programs, including both the men's and women's swimming and diving teams. Now, a Forest City native and U of I swimmer reflects on what the swim team meant to her, and what the future holds.

Posted: Aug 25, 2020 3:34 AM
Updated: Aug 25, 2020 6:16 AM

MASON CITY, Iowa - Last Friday, the University of Iowa announced it would cut four varsity sports programs, including both the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, due to revenue shortfalls resulting from the postponement of fall sports due to COVID-19, after the conclusion of this school year.

For Forest City native and star swimmer Emma Sougstad, the news hits especially hard. She was part of the Hawkeye swim team from 2013-2017, and was a three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time All-American who set several school records, including being the first swimmer in school history to break 59 seconds in the 100 breast-stroke. She would later become an assistant coach at her alma mater after coaching for a time at Miami University in Ohio.

"It was absolutely devastating, for each athlete and coach." 

With the announcement, Sougstad says school administrators will honor the athletes' scholarships if they continue to attend the University, and are working with those who pledged to come to the school for swimming to be able to continue to do what they love. However, the loss of the 103-year old program, which can help teach important life lessons, still cuts deep.

"You spend 20 hours a week staring at a black line in our sport, so your teammates are what help get you through it. There's a lot of life lessons learned in those 20 hours of tenacity, of mental toughness, of grit. But how you learn that is the communal sense of a team."

Already, a petition was started by Sougstad's training buddy Mike Nelson, to try and convince school administration to reverse course. As of Monday night, the petition has gathered just under 17,000 signatures.

"He knows the difference it made in his life, as well as mine and our head coach Marc [Long]. Many of the alumni of the program have been absolutely shaped and formed due to this program. having this be taken away and not having future family members enter is heartbreaking."

The cut results in no schools having a men's Division-I swimming program within Iowa.

In addition to the swimming and diving programs, men's tennis and men's gymnastics will also be discontinued.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 582576

Reported Deaths: 7284
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1208311715
Ramsey50357867
Dakota45046442
Anoka40774432
Washington26338278
Stearns21901220
St. Louis17502302
Scott16980124
Wright15722135
Olmsted1309797
Sherburne1139484
Carver1031645
Clay807492
Rice7952106
Blue Earth739241
Crow Wing651888
Kandiyohi647282
Chisago581051
Otter Tail567578
Benton560197
Goodhue470872
Mower460332
Douglas459574
Winona448450
Itasca417953
McLeod417258
Morrison413660
Isanti408262
Nobles406748
Beltrami387358
Steele381015
Polk379567
Becker375449
Lyon357650
Carlton340353
Freeborn339529
Pine323521
Nicollet320943
Brown303040
Mille Lacs297152
Le Sueur285322
Todd277431
Cass265528
Meeker250140
Waseca235721
Martin227731
Roseau205019
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Jackson121211
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Pope10806
Murray10559
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Marshall87417
Clearwater85716
Koochiching81314
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Grant5648
Mahnomen5408
Norman5379
Unassigned48893
Kittson48122
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3183
Cook1560

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 364579

Reported Deaths: 5902
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57228619
Linn20701333
Scott19754239
Black Hawk15746307
Woodbury15087228
Johnson1439083
Dubuque13322209
Dallas1109597
Pottawattamie11036166
Story1054248
Warren572988
Clinton551692
Cerro Gordo535689
Sioux512474
Webster510892
Marshall480875
Muscatine473899
Des Moines451466
Wapello4283122
Buena Vista424140
Jasper413070
Plymouth400179
Lee372355
Marion360075
Jones296857
Henry290437
Carroll284752
Bremer282460
Crawford264340
Boone262334
Benton254955
Washington253050
Dickinson247343
Mahaska229250
Jackson220742
Clay214725
Kossuth214764
Tama208871
Delaware208040
Winneshiek196433
Page192121
Buchanan190431
Cedar188823
Fayette184441
Hardin184443
Wright183336
Hamilton179249
Harrison179173
Clayton168756
Butler163834
Mills161321
Madison160319
Floyd159542
Cherokee158338
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154633
Allamakee150351
Iowa147924
Hancock146434
Winnebago140831
Cass137654
Grundy135932
Calhoun135813
Emmet133740
Jefferson132135
Shelby130537
Sac130019
Appanoose128047
Louisa127849
Union127632
Mitchell125642
Chickasaw123615
Guthrie120729
Humboldt118726
Franklin116421
Palo Alto112123
Howard104122
Montgomery102737
Unassigned10070
Clarke99624
Keokuk95331
Monroe95028
Ida90334
Adair86232
Pocahontas85422
Monona82830
Davis81324
Osceola77916
Greene77610
Lucas76823
Worth7348
Taylor65612
Fremont6219
Decatur6059
Van Buren55618
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Wayne53223
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