Swimming and diving add two to fill midseason gaps in roster


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Freshman Guy Shilon prepares to dive off the block for the 100 yard backstroke. Shilon swam the event in 58.18.

Rachel Given

Although it is the middle of the season, the new year brought a new roster to the Iowa State swim and dive team, which has seen its fair share of athletes come and go. 

Sophomore Guy Shilon had a breakout 2015-16 freshman season with the Cyclones and was the top 200-yard backstroker on the team, but left before this season’s winter break.

“She’s a type 1 diabetic and she had a real hard time controlling her blood sugar,” swim coach Duane Sorenson said.

The Iowa State medical staff suggested that Shilon take the spring semester off from training with the team but suggested she stay enrolled in classes. Shilon decided if she wasn’t going to swim, staying at Iowa State wouldn’t be worth it. She returned back to her home in Israel.

“In the long run it will be much more healthier for her … in five, 10, 20 years to get back and to a better environment where she can eat properly and get her blood sugar under control,” Sorenson said.

Shilon’s departure left a major hole in Iowa State’s backstroke squad.

“We’re scrambling to find a backstroker for this coming fall to replace her,” Sorenson said. “Backstrokers just don’t grow on trees.”

Another swimmer, Kaarin Quaerna, who redshirted her freshman year last season, left at the beginning of this season for personal reasons.

“Life is too short to try to do something you don’t want to do,” Sorenson said.

Quaerna’s departure left the Cyclones lacking depth in the freestyle races.

But even in the heat of the season, Sorenson has added one swimmer and one diver to the roster to try and fill some gaps.

Sorenson believes Polina Shynkarenko, sophomore swimmer from Ukraine, will help fill the gap Quaerna left behind. He doesn’t believe it will happen immediately, but eventually. Sorenson said Shynkarenko hasn’t been able to train at an elite level for a while. 

He said Europeans usually have to choose between being an athlete or a student — they can’t be both — because universities often don’t have their own teams, making it difficult to travel to practice every day.

Shynkarenko attended one year of university — the name for college in Europe — and started practicing with the Cyclones after their winter training trip in Puerto Rico.

Shynkarenko got her first taste of American collegiate swim meets this past weekend against West Virginia. While she still hasn’t gotten approval from the NCAA to officially compete, Sorenson put her in a few exhibition races.

Sorenson said this year will be a learning curve, and he just wants to get her feet in the water. Sorenson said Shynkarenko has enjoyed Ames because she has never been in a team atmosphere before. She has always competed as an individual.

“It was pretty eye-opening for her,” Sorenson said. “It’s a kind of cultural type of thing.”

Diver Alex Aaberg is another new addition. She is an Iowa native but made her way to Iowa State via the University of New Mexico. Aaberg redshirted at New Mexico last year, but because she competed for the Lobos this past fall, she has to finish NCAA eligibility paperwork to be able to compete as a Cyclone for the rest of this season.

Usually when an athlete transfers, they have to sit out the rest of that season. But Aaberg came back to Iowa for family reasons, so she applied for a waiver from the NCAA to regain eligibility for the rest of the 2016-17 season. 

“Alex is a very fundamentally solid diver,” dive coach Jeff Warrick said. “There’s still a possibility that she could compete for us, but time is ticking away quickly.”

Aaberg and Shynkarenko have been practicing with the Cyclones and are awaiting approval from the NCAA to compete in meets.