Recounting the AIAW

“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”
-- Theodore Roosevelt. 

AIAW All-Americans

By Emma Sougstad

The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) is an institution that was created to develop and administer championship style opportunities for women in collegiate competition.This organization’s rich history began in 1970 and continued through 1981 where the NCAA adopted the women’s collegiate national meet. At its peak, the AIAW had over 1,000 member schools that endorsed women competing at an elite level for 19 sports - including swimming and diving. The College Swimming Coaches Association of America made it their mission to honor the women that scored in the top 16 at the AIAW national meet with their rightful title of All-American. It was truly an honor to be able to research a program that paved the way for so many women in our sport as athletes and coaches.

Many prominent female coaches got their feet wet through the AIAW by first being athletes, learning the discipline of training first hand, and ultimately achieving Top 16 at the elite AIAW national meet. It was eye-opening to flip through the pages  of these historic meets and see many names of the women who made a true impact on the sport of swimming and diving through their platform of coaching. A couple women stood out to me throughout the research process. 

Jill Sterkel is an esteemed coach from the University of Texas who faithfully led Texas to many victories over her 15 years in college coaching. Jill was a very decorated swimmer and accelerated her success in the AIAW through winning 16 individual titles and 5 relays over her 4 collegiate years. 

Another All-American standout was Terry Ganley- she competed for the University of Minnesota from 1973-1977. In this time frame, she was the first All-American for the Golden Gophers that was a woman. Ganley is still at the University of Minnesota and now has coached over 100 All-American athletes that have earned 450 All-American certificates in which she paved the way by her experience with the AIAW. 

The final spotlighted All-American is Penny Lee Dean; you might know Penny as the 10 year old that swam across the frigid San Francisco Bay or as a world record holder in a multitude of open water swims from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Dean competed for Pomona- Pitzer College where she became a five time All-American. Later, Dean became a decorated open water swim coach by becoming the U.S. National Team Coach of Open Water Swimming from 1988 through 1991, Head Coach of U.S. teams to the 1991 Pan Pacific Championships, and many more coaching positions/accolades. 

These women, and so many more, have paved the way for women athletes and coaches today. The women who completed this research are examples of following in the previous generation’s footsteps. Melissa Paione swam at Bates University and is currently coaching at Middlebury College in Vermont.  Sarah James swam at Southern Illinois and is now coaching at Southwestern University in Texas. Lastly, myself, Emma Sougstad, swam at the University of Iowa, and I am now coaching at Miami University in Ohio. We are very grateful for our opportunities that we were granted inside the pool and the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. Now, we are excited to pass on the lessons we learned from the women within the hundreds of pages of results in combination with our own careers to pave the way for a brighter tomorrow for Swimming and Diving.