Earlier today, Wisconsin’s school newspaper The Daily Cardinal broke the news that Olympian Cierra Runge is leaving the Wisconsin Badger swimming and diving program and will transfer to continue her educational and swimming career at Arizona State in January. There she will be reunited with the former coach of her youth Bob Bowman – also the coach of Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, and many other big names in American swimming. Bowman was also the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team head coach.
“I’d like to thank Wisconsin for all that they have done for me and I will always be a Badger fan,” Runge said in a statement to SwimSwam. “I am looking forward to finishing up my collegiate career at ASU as well as continue my training for international competitions.”
Runge says that she’ll have to sit out 2 semesters of collegiate swimming before she’ll be eligible to compete for the Sun Devils, which means she should get her first races in January of 2019.
Runge had been conspicuously absent this season, coming off a summer in which she qualified for the U.S. World Championships team and took relay gold. Runge swam a prelims leg of the 4×200 free relay in Budapest, but has not competed since.
The Cardinal story indicates that Runge has been out of the water since September. One anonymous source in the Cardinal suggests Runge could transfer elsewhere, but would not compete there, citing personal issues as the reason for Runge’s decision to leave the program. The Cardinal report also says Runge is leaving the program of her own volition.
Runge was only with Wisconsin for one year of NCAA swimming. She competed her freshman year with Cal in 2014-2015, breaking an NCAA record in the 500 free and an American record as part of a 4×200 free relay. She elected to sit out the next season of NCAA competition, moving to Arizona to train with her former club coach Bob Bowman in the leadup to the 2016 Olympics. After making that Olympic team as part of the 4×200 free relay and earning a gold medal for it, Runge transferred to Wisconsin.
Her lone season as a Badger garnered All-America status in the 400 free relay and B final bids in the 200 and 500 frees. She broke school records in the 200, 500, 1000, and 1650 freestyles in that one season, in addition to swimming as a member of record-setting 400 and 800 freestyle relays.
Runge spent the majority of the summer training at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Updated at 3:17 Central Time with statement from Runge.