29 Transfers: The Result of ECU Cutting Swim and Dive Team

Annika Johnson
by Annika Johnson 1

October 07th, 2020 News

Four months into the East Carolina swimming & diving fight to reinstate their program,  a total of 29 returning and incoming Pirates have made the decision to transfer. This number is over half of their 2019-2020 roster of 49 team members.

ECU Athletics Director Jon Gilbert announced his decision to cut the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs, along with men’s and women’s tennis, in late May. In a press conference Gilbert explained that “financial realities,” which were only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, motivated the decision. However, the scholarships awarded to the swim and dive team members will still be honored for the students who remain at ECU.

The ECU swimming and diving team has already made significant efforts to reinstate the team, including raising over $715,000 in pledges on the Save ECU Swimming and Diving website, and raising over $18,000 in an action fund to cover costs of trying to save the program.

However, after any athletic team is cut transfers are inevitable. Student-athletes are having to decide between the academics they originally chose and their ability to continue to compete at the collegiate level. With graduate school looming ahead for some athletes, those who could spend a year fighting for reinstatement and compete as a 5th year may not have the financial luxury or time to wait in limbo for another year.

Former ECU associate head coach Kate Moore said in an email that so far ECU swimming and diving has had “very little success in getting any productive responses from ECU’s interim chancellor.”

One possible game-changer for the team is the fact that ECU is in the process of hiring a new chancellor. ECU swim and dive expects to regroup and make another push to reinstate the their programs with the new Chancellor in the hopes that they will be more receptive. ECU announced that they are working to seat the new Chancellor by January 2021.

Among the 29 transfers is Rodrigo Romero, the defending AAC champion in the 1-meter springboard event. In his short time as a freshman on the team, Romero broke a NCAA qualifying dry spell as he was ECU’s first diver since 1974 to qualify. Romero transferred to the University of Kentucky in early August.

One of ECU’s top swimmers, Kristen Stege, announced her transfer to the University of Tennessee in March, 2 months before the team was told they were being cut. Stege broke the AAC conference record in the 1650 free this year (16:11.96), during the first competitive mile of her career. As a freshman Stege also qualified for NCAA’s before the meet was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ben Gingher, an AAC Conference Championship finalist, has now transferred a second time in his collegiate career. After his freshman season at Eastern Michigan the team was cut, so he transferred to East Carolina where he competed for 2 seasons. At the 2019 AAC Conference Championships he claimed 8th in the 100 and 200 breast, while in 2020 he earned spots in the B final in both breaststroke events and the 200IM. Gingher is transferring to Youngstown State in Ohio for his senior season. SwimSwam talked with Ginger earlier about his transfer experiences on the SwimSwam Podcast:


Mariana Vignoli, a prominent distance swimmer for the pirates, transferred to the University of Nevada. At last season’s conference championships she claimed 7th place in the mile. Her best mile time (16:32.13) also places her as Nevada’s fastest 1650 freestyler.

2020 AAC 200 fly champion Adam Mahler is also one of the ECU transfers. After claiming 9th in the 100 fly and 12th in the 500 as a pirate at conference championships during his freshman year, he transferred to the University of North Carolina.

Some colleges will be gaining more than one of ECU’s former pirates:

  • North Carolina State University – 2
  • George Washington – 2
  • Fresno State – 2
  • Kentucky – 2

East Carolina’s men’s swimming and diving program was coming off of their 4th American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship title. The pirate’s women’s program finished 4th in the AAC last season.

Current List of ECU Swim and Dive Transfers:

Returning Men:

Some of the Incoming Men:

  • Cameron Speed – Florida Atlantic University
  • Issaac Atkinson – North Carolina State University
  • Brandan Williams – West Virginia University
  • Cooper Kiel – UNLV
  • Sam Parker – Arizona State

Returning Women:

Some of the Incoming Women:

  • Miroslava Zaborska – Illinois State
  • Naomee Miller – Marshall
  • Anneliese Hohm – Pitt
  • Barbora Mikuskova – FGU (Spring 2021)

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Kevin Meisel
2 years ago

Best wishes and continued success on the board, in the pool, & on the court to all transferring ECU divers, swimmers, & tennis players. I am sad to read of student-athletes leaving campus and hope the continued efforts to restore both sports will soon find you back in Greenville. Keep working hard to succeed…
Kevin Meisel, ECU Swimmer ’77-’80

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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