Olympian Cierra Runge Leaving Wisconsin Program

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.

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I wish her the best. At Wisconsin personal reasons almost always means grades.


I would prefer it be a grade issue instead of a mental health issue. At Wisconsin they won’t say anything at all. To do so would be a FERPA violation. Here is a link to the student paper: http://www.dailycardinal.com/article/2017/11/after-one-season-olympic-gold-medalist-cierra-runge-no-longer-with-wisconsin-swimming-and-diving-program


We really shouldn’t speculate about her grades or mental health. Private matters should stay private,


You can’t ask people to follow the sport and then tell them its none of their business when a national team swimmer changes their training environment. People want to know why where etc Glad she stepped forward and gave some clarity to the issue.


If it is due to personal circumstances, yes you can – People don’t have the right to know the personal details of people’s lives merely because they choose to follow the sport. If an athlete chooses to disclose details, so be it, but speculation isn’t becoming.


Hardly grades. Stellar student.


Great! I hope so.


Why only those 2 options? Do you know her? She looked pretty normal at Golden Googles! She hasn’t been swimming as well since going to Wisconsin. Could that be a reason? Maybe it’s just too cold.


Could be. Wisconsin has the crappiest pool in the Big 10.

Swim mom 2

Crappier than Illinois?

At the moment, Illinois at least has a 50-meter indoor pool. Wisconsin doesn’t have that until the new pool opens in 2020 (they had one, but it’s been closed for demolition, according to the website).


Wisconsin’s new aquatic center is supposed to open in the fall of 2019 — too late for Cierra, but it’s coming. I doubt the facilities were an issue. Have those who are saying Wisconsin’s facilities were a big factor ever been to North Baltimore (Meadowbrook), where Cierra, Phelps, Schmitt and others grew up training? Not exactly a palace there.


And Illinois has a 50m outdoor pool as well. I swam in it a couple of summers ago.


Most high schools have better pools than the Nat. Air quality is also terrible. Hmm, where would I rather train, at a poor excuse of a pool or at Mona Plumber, spent a lot of time at both pools, no contest. Sad to see her leave Wi, go Bucky!!!


you don’t need a good pool to swim fast swimmom


Stop fighting Mom and dad


First Cal and now Wisconsin, this must be really hard on her, wishing her all the best, this must be so stressful for her.


Life will provide another option soon . No problem , change is the only constant in life . Wishing her the best


Yeah, and with all the transferring she has done it will prob take her 6 yrs to get her degree!!!

Go Cierra

6 years, 10 years why would age matter? She would still be under 25 years old when she graduates. She is an elite swimmer. If she wants to train under a certain coach, it is her choice! Once she turns pro or may it be that she is done with the sport, she could still pursue additional or higher education elsewhere, she can still do so at any age 30 or 40. Life goes on! Don’t be too critical of our young athletes!!! Let them be and respect their decisions. It is their life and career!!!


Look at it this way: She’ll get to experience college life at 3 different campuses for 6 years, probably at no cost considering her talent.


Yeah, they’re called doc-tors.


Why is she doing this? IMO she should just turn pro.


I agree, at this point with her having to sit out another year, (during which she’ll prolly be doing alot of longcourse) she’ll then have to switch back to SCY during an olympic year (which is the opposite of what she did last time). She should have gone straight to ASU…i always thought Wisconsin was a rando choice for her. Best of luck


McKeever wouldn’t release her to any top program.


McKeever cruelly refused to release Ringe to any PAC 12 team. This coach did not want to compete against Runge who is an exceptional young woman and swimmer. McKeever treated Runge shabbily. Runge experienced the underbelly of college swimming and coaching but she persevered to reach her dream of making the USA olympic team and winning olympic gold. Cierra deserves respect and support.

Re: Wisconsin being a “rando choice” – Chris Collier, Wisconsin assistant, coached Cierra at NBAC.


You could argue that she should go pro and stay in school, but she should not just fully drop out with that crappy USA swimming stipend.


the stipend isn’t crappy but don’t think she qualifies for it.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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