The NCAA champion is the first member of last year’s team to come forward publicly after McKeever was placed on administrative leave May 25 following dozens of allegations of abuse. Gantriis is one of at least six swimmers who has either transferred or entered the NCAA’s transfer portal since the season’s end. She said she will likely transfer to Wisconsin or Louisville.
The bullying occurred almost daily, Gantriis’ journals revealed, and it included McKeever trying to convince her that she had a mental illness.
“Teri convinced me and other team members that I had psychological problems,” said Gantriis, a three-time Pac-12 champion. “I never had any problems before coming to Cal. She told me multiple times I was mentally ill, just as she did to other swimmers she targeted. I was already seeing a sports psychologist and a therapist because I needed professional help on how to cope with the way Teri treated myself and others. However, Teri told me that counseling was required before I could come back to practice. She made me meet with a life coach, who also happened to be a good friend of hers. When I told my feelings to the life coach, she would respond with: ‘Have you never had a coach scream at you before?’ She invalidated my feelings and made me feel like I was overly sensitive for feeling upset.
“I stopped seeing her because I liked my own certified psychologist more. Teri later blamed me for not talking with the life coach, but I wasn’t the only one on the team who had problems with her methods. Two months before I was required to talk with the life coach one-on-one, Teri brought her in to do an activity with our entire team. We all taped a blank piece of paper on our backs. Then, we all had to go around and write what each of our teammates should keep doing, and what they should stop doing. When we got home, we could take off the piece of paper and read it. Many of my teammates were in tears after receiving such negative anonymous feedback. I remember thinking how wrong the ‘team building’ exercise was, but because no one did or said anything it was very normalized.”
In addition to her own experience as a victim, Gantriis also confirmed that she had been interviewed by the university’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination as part of a formal investigation regarding McKeever’s use of a racial epithet and profanities while disparaging rap music. Gantriis claimed that McKeever targeted freshmen Stephanie Akakabota and Reed Broaders, both African American, for regular verbal and emotional abuse. Gantriis and four other members of the 2021-22 squad also said McKeever repeatedly made comments about an African American swimmer’s appearance this past academic year.
“I’m just happy this is out and Teri is never going to be able to coach again,” Gantriis said in an interview with SCNG. “Because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this hell again.”
Gantriis explained that the pressure of McKeever’s coaching contributed to her disqualifying the 400 medley relay team at the 2021 NCAA Championships.
“My last event of the night was the 400 medley relay,” Gantriis said. “I was swimming the freestyle leg. As I stood on the block, anticipating my teammate’s finish, I kept telling myself, ‘Emily, do not jump too slow, do not jump too slow, do not jump too slow.’ I was so traumatized from Teri leaving practice in anger that one day a week prior, and I did not want to witness her reaction to another delayed relay start. Paralyzed with fear, I accidentally dove into the water 2 or 3/100 of a second too early and disqualified the relay.”
As seems to be a common thread throughout the recent McKeever saga, Cal administrators failed to take action when told about the decorated coach’s pattern of alleged mistreatment. In fact, McKeever even bragged about her relationship to Cal Athletics’ second-in-command Jennifer Simon-O’Neill, who is also her goddaughter.
“Teri assured me that anything I told Jenny would not be taken seriously, because Jenny believed her and not me,” Gantriis said.
“The school failed dealing with this because of Teri’s success and the conflict of interest there was!” she wrote in her journal. “This abuse was only possible because the school administration did not listen. I can understand if two or three swimmers complained. However, if more than 40% have transferred or stopped on a team that shows that there is a problem!
“Jenny Simon O’Neil would have Teri’s back and not the athletes. I talked with Jenny and her response was just that ‘it sounded like me and Teri were not a personality match’ and ‘Teri had great success and was a phenomenal coach.’
“I had a meeting with (an athletic department administrator) where he just told me that the next step was to meet with Jenny Simon-O’Neil. It took me a lot of courage to even talk with them and it was first after I decided to transfer, I had the courage because I had nothing to lose. However, no one would listen, and I knew I was not the first that had tried to contact them. It is so hard to prove verbal abuse because there is such a fine line between tough coaching and abuse, but Teri definitely went over that line.”