A stark silence of Cal swimmers and colleagues

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Jim Xu/Staff

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It has been nearly three weeks since the allegations against Cal women’s swim and dive head coach Teri McKeever were first reported by the Southern California News Group, sharing the alleged abuses behind many Cal swimmers’ experiences performing under the tutelage of McKeever. Behind the hidden curtains of Cal women’s swim and dive, McKeever allegedly turned a competitive atmosphere into a haunting one, changing the tides of many athletes’ hopeful collegiate swim careers.

Yet there is an interesting line between the people whose voices are the backbone to this movement and the people related to Cal women’s swim and dive who are staying silent. Many characters associated with Cal swimming have kept their mouths shut, including many of McKeever’s close associates and her superstar swimmers. Even when prompted, many of McKeever’s colleagues and athletes have turned the other way.

Former associate athletics director for communications and head sports information director, Herb Benenson, had worked at Cal since 1990 before his recent retirement. In a request to speak to Benenson, he declined and stated that he has retired. After working closely with McKeever, specifically as the women’s swim and dive sports information director, Benenson’s silence speaks loudly.

Additionally, many athletes in Cal women’s swim and dive have chosen to not speak on McKeever’s allegations, many of whom are her most prized swimmers.

Freshman Leah Polonsky and graduated senior Isabel Ivey were asked to speak on the allegations. However, they did not respond to any press requests.

Ivey, a heralded swimmer and the backbone of Cal women’s swimming this past year, never spoke out against McKeever. Additionally, rising sophomore Polonsky, Cal’s star freshman this past season who earned an appearance at the NCAA championships, declined to comment as well.

The stark distinction between the ones speaking out and the ones who are keeping silent stands at the line of the superstars and those who did not see the spotlight as much. Nevertheless, the allegations against McKeever focus on many years of Cal swimmers who had the potential of rising to the top.

Interim associate athletics director of communications, Jonathan Okanes, shared an updated statement from Cal Athletics after conveying that each athlete can choose whether they want to discuss the allegations with the press.

Firstly, the alleged behavior of McKeever was denounced.

“The allegations described are serious and deeply disturbing. They describe behavior antithetical to our values and policies. We are now, as always, encouraging current and former students to report behaviors and incidents that run counter to those policies and our values,” a statement from Cal Athletics said.

“(Cal Athletics is) encouraging current and former students to report behaviors and incidents that run counter to those policies and our values. We are now, as always, encouraging current and former students who may have been impacted to seek out support and assistance. We stand ready to help students in need to connect with the appropriate campus resources and offices that offer support, guidance and assistance,” the statement continues.

This statement also discusses McKeever’s current place on administrative leave.

As the story unravels, the people speaking out become more and more indicative of how McKeever may have uplifted the greatest swimmers each season and challenged the rest.

Alisa Steel covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].