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Photo by Stephen Mally/University of Iowa athletics: Former Fort Dodge all-stater and current University of Iowa swimmer Taylor Hartley competes for the Hawkeyes last season. Hartley and Fierke are both juniors this year for Iowa, which will be in its final season as a program.

The words still ring loudly in the ears of Taylor Hartley and Andrew Fierke, nearly three weeks after a stunning announcement made it official.

And the emotions remain raw. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Disbelief. Whatever adversity swimmers at the University of Iowa faced both before and during the coronavirus global pandemic, up until Aug. 21, no one had ever imagined it would come to this.

The COVID-19 fallout expected to saddle the UI athletic department with $100 million in lost revenue and a $60-75 million deficit for the current fiscal campaign. As a result, school president Bruce Harreld and athletic director Gary Barta announced four programs — men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics — would be eliminated at the conclusion of the the 2020-21 academic year.

Hartley and Fierke, both former Fort Dodge Senior High all-staters in the pool, are preparing for their respective junior seasons as Hawkeyes. They’re rising contributors in the pool, active citizens away from it, and model students in the classroom. Yet both now face uncertain futures, mulling over a life without swimming and forced to be much more cynical than they were just one month ago.

“I’ll be honest, my feelings shift every day,” said Hartley, an academic all-Big Ten and Dean’s List honoree. “Ever since finding out about the team being cut, I’ve had days where I am angry about the decision, days where I feel sadness for my team, and days where I am just overwhelmed with the uncertainty and stress that COVID has added to participating in my sport and the way it has affected my academic situation with classes being online.

Iowa’s Andrew Fierke swims the men’s 200 yard freestyle event during their meet at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City on Friday, February 7, 2020. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)

“While I do wish there was a way to undo this decision, I really need to focus on being a good teammate and continue improving myself in swimming and in school during this time. I realize that there are loyal alumni and parents working very hard to spread awareness, and I am so thankful for their support of the current Iowa swimmers and divers.”

Fierke, who was a part of the school’s record-breaking 800 freestyle relay as an underclassman, is still trying to process the news, the fallout and the aftermath — much like Hartley.

“I guess my biggest emotion is still anger,” Fierke said. “This is a 100-plus year old program. It’s done so much for the university. We’re frustrated. We feel betrayed. And we still don’t really have a direct answer to the question, ‘why?’”

The Big Ten Conference is currently not participating in a fall athletic season due to the pandemic. Without football revenue to support the athletic department’s respective budgets, institutions across the midwest are facing difficult choices and painful cuts in an attempt to weather the storm and balance the books.

Schools are scrambling to manage the crisis in their own respective ways. Iowa’s decree to abolish four sports came two months after it had announced $15 million in budget reductions within the athletic department.

Hartley and Fierke were told to attend a meeting organized by UI officials, and although neither were anticipating good news, total program elimination seemed unfathomable — until it wasn’t.

“When my teammates and I walked down the stairs at Carver to see the administrators standing at the entrance of the gym where the mandatory meeting for men’s tennis, men’s gymnastics, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving was to be held, I think most of us knew it wasn’t good,” said Hartley, a human physiology major. “We were told that we would get to participate in our sports for one more season, if COVID allowed, and then our sports would be discontinued at Iowa. The whole situation seemed a bit bizarre: a room of nearly 100 athletes, all wearing masks, all sitting in folding chairs spaced six feet apart, hearing this horrible news. It was devastating.

“This was the first time I had seen my coaches and most of my teammates since March, and I was now being forced to realize that this was the last season they would actually be my coaches and teammates. When the athletes from the two other sports and the administration left the room, the coaches addressed us and expressed their anger, frustration, and sadness. I think the general feelings in the room were confusion and devastation; no one understood why it had to be us. The thought that swimming and diving at Iowa would cease to exist was unbelievable at first.”

Fierke added an announcement along these lines would’ve been “absolutely crazy” six months ago. Now, it’s reality.

“We got a notification (about the meeting) about an hour before it was happening, and the coaches didn’t even know (about the program elimination) until that day,” said Fierke, a mechanical engineering major. “It caught everyone off guard. And we really didn’t receive any information or explanation, beyond the fact that there just wasn’t enough money.”

Barta said in a recent press conference that the school will save “north of $5 million annually” with the four programs off the books. Iowa became the fifth Div. I institution this offseason to cut swimming and diving, joining non-Power Five schools East Carolina, Connecticut, Boise State and Dartmouth.

Thirty Hawkeye swimmers all-time have qualified for the Olympics. The university’s natatorium — a crown jewel for Iowa’s $69 million Campus Recreation and Wellness Center — is less than 10 years old, and just last June, a $5-6 million project was announced to focus on replacements and upgrades. The school is still scheduled — as of now — to host the 2021 NCAA Div. I men’s swimming and diving championships. Those plans will likely change, which will cost the Iowa City community an estimated $1.5 million in direct economic impact according to Greg Earhart, executive director of the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association.

“Most people are confused about the swim and dive team being cut, and I think a huge reason for this confusion is that we have a beautiful facility, which is set to hold the 2021 Men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships,” said Hartley, the daughter of Fort Dodge’s Bruce and Tracy Hartley. “It’s so strange to me to think about our locker rooms and newly-furnished team room — a favorite study and hangout spot for athletes — sitting empty and unused.”

Fierke called the idea of potentially competing in his home pool at the NCAA Championships “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“That could be taken away (between now and March),” Fierke conceded. “We were all really excited about that possibility, obviously. When you combine the history and tradition of the program with our current facility and reputation throughout both the Big Ten and the entire country…

“This just doesn’t make sense.”

Hartley isn’t planning on transferring to use her final season of eligibility, but understands why others would.

“Ever since hearing the news, my coaches have made it clear that they would be supportive of every athlete on the team and help with our journeys moving forward, whether we decide to transfer or stay at Iowa,” Hartley said. “They have emphasized that we are going to make the most of our last season together as Iowa swimmers.

“I will not be transferring to compete elsewhere. On top of my experience with the swim team, I have become involved in other activities in the Iowa City area that I truly enjoy, such as volunteering at a food pantry and working a part-time job as a waitress. Although it was not the ideal way for my swim career to end, I am going to enjoy my last season as an Iowa swimmer and carry all the memories and lessons forward into my life.”

Fierke is focusing on the here and now rather than addressing the transfer portal.

“I’ve given it some thought, but not full attention,” said Fierke, the son of Fort Dodge’s David and Melanie Fierke. “I’m concentrating on my current schoolwork and doing whatever I can to both make the most of this season and try to save the program.

“We don’t want to give up hope. (Hawkeye swimming) is a family, and we’re in this together. So many people have been contacted, and alumni have been actively involved. We’re going to keep fighting.”

A “Save Hawkeye Sports” Facebook page has been established to support the four affected programs.

Hartley added that “even if I completely understood all the numbers and reasoning behind this decision, a part of me would always take it personally.”

“My teammates and I, as well as the athletes from the other sports cut, have spent most, if not all, of our young lives dedicated to our sport, just to get to the place we are now,” Hartley said. “And now participating in the sport we love at the school we love is no longer a possibility, which is always going to hurt, no matter the reason behind the decision.

“I would say my biggest takeaway from this situation is to always be thankful for what you have. I am extremely honored to have had the opportunity to wear the tiger hawk and represent the University of Iowa in the pool. I would not trade the friendships I’ve made or the experiences I’ve had on this team for anything, and I’m just so grateful to have been a part of a program so rich in history and Hawkeye pride.”

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UH-MC: Plenty of interest in nursing programs | News, Sports, Jobs

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Mark Vincent (from left), Jade Dela Cruz, Anna Gilarski and Miki‘ala Maynard take a selfie while leaving the hospital after their final clinical was over. These students of the University of Hawaii-Maui College graduated in May. — Photo courtesy of Anne Scharnhorst

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought plenty of uncertainties, it’s made one thing clear: the importance of local nurses, says an associate professor at the University of Hawaii-Maui College.

Fortunately, in-state nursing schools like UH-Maui College had recruited just enough in recent years to meet and fill the demand, with about 80 percent of program graduates entering the Maui County workforce.

“The pressure and the need for qualified RNs on Maui is so acute,” said Anne Scharnhorst, who’s also the Allied Health Department chair of the nursing program. “We don’t have to recruit one bit, we have so much interest. We’re training the number that we feel like will get a job, and we also feel like we can flex up or down.”

Scharnhorst said that between travel restrictions and testing centers operating at half capacity to meet social distancing protocols, nursing students have had a “really hard time” getting their license exams completed; however, 37 students still graduated in May, only two fewer than last year.

Of the UH-MC graduating class, up to 30 will be hired by Maui Memorial Medical Center and some by other places like Hale Makua.

“The job market for the new nurses has been really strong for the last three years,” she said. “A lot of kids go to Mainland and get a job because they can’t afford to live here, so to have a series or set of jobs where people can actually stay here and work here and live, you know, the college and places in the community really puts a high value on that.”

The Hawaii State Center for Nursing released its Hawaii Nurse Education Capacity Report for the 2018-19 academic year last week, which shows that schools of nursing graduated 531 students from pre-license programs, a 20 percent increase from 2017-18. The report includes data from registered nurses who graduated from in-state schools between 2015 and 2018 and who completed the 2019 Nursing Workforce Supply Survey.

There are eight in-state schools of nursing across four counties. Of these, six are governed by the University of Hawaii system. The other two schools are not-for-profit private institutions located on Oahu.

UH-MC used to admit 42 qualified students into nursing programs twice annually but is now only admitting 42 once a year to adjust to the market and community needs.

About 100 students apply every year to the college’s nursing program.

“The goal is to educate how many Maui needs. We’re not trying to educate people to move,” Scharnhorst said. “It’s Maui County resources. Nursing programs are very expensive.”

UH-MC gives points to applying students for their prerequisite courses and pre-entrance exam. Additional points are given to a student who may have had past health care experience. Whoever gets the most points is admitted into the program.

However, Scharnhorst said UH-MC is now giving credit to those who have attended a Maui high school because “people who are born and raised and live here, are usually going to work here and take care of the community.”

“People come here for a lot of reasons. Who doesn’t like Maui?” she added. “But the real goal here is to try and get people to stay in Maui.”

Overall, the admissions process is transitioning to a more holistic approach.

“You really want to pick the right people, and the good people aren’t just the ones with a 4.0 (grade point average),” she said. “If you’re a B student, you can learn this stuff no problem, we will definitely teach you. You need a lot of resilience, and the ability to deal with people, and you have to be kind of hardy, and that isn’t measured by a 4.0.”

The data provided by recent graduates on the 2019 Nursing Workforce Supply Survey do not show any evidence that Hawaii’s schools of nursing are producing more new graduate RNs than the job market can absorb.

Rather, new graduates seem to prefer working in hospitals, and their chances of working in hospitals improve if they are willing to leave the state, according to the report.

The data also show the demand for post-license nurse education is lower than the demand for pre-license education. Post-license programs are intended to support the academic advancement of nurses who are already in the workforce.

Those who choose to pursue post-license education may be interested in expanding their practice, clinical judgment or pursuing jobs that require higher levels of education.

Findings indicate that new graduate RNs who left the state after graduation are more likely to work in hospitals and less likely to work in long-term care settings than new graduate RNs who stayed in Hawaii.

This also suggests that although there are available jobs in Hawaii for graduates, those who want to work in hospitals have a better chance of doing so if they leave the state.

“Most of them, if they get a job, they will stay here,” Scharnhorst said. “If they don’t get a job, they leave. The last three years the majority of students, about 80 percent, have gotten a job on Maui.”

Enrollment demand for pre-license programs exceeded capacity with schools reporting having received a total of 1,785 fully qualified applications to pre-license programs. This was 680 more applications than they received for the 2017-18 academic year.

Around 65 percent of applicants to these programs were denied admission because of capacity constraints.

A total of 1,254 students were enrolled in Hawaii’s pre-license nurse education programs in 2018-19, which is a slight decrease (3 percent) from the year before. Of the students enrolled in pre-license programs, 64 percent were Bachelor of Science in Nursing students, 20 percent Associate Degree in Nursing students, 10 percent were Graduate Entry Program in Nursing students, and 6 percent Licensed Practical Nurse students.

While working in health care can be taxing and requires support and preparation, “it’s a great job and you make a great impact on the community,” Scharnhorst said.

“It’s a great lifelong job you can raise a family on and they pour into the economy, and they are insured, but you don’t want to have to go through all that training and have to leave your home,” she said. “Maui residents have a really good place to go and they end up with good nurses taking care of them, and they want to stay here.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.


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Kevin Hart

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kevin Hart says hosting a re-imagined online fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association is “a major level-up for me.”

“It’s different from anything that you’ve really seen me do. And there’s a great reason behind it,” said the comic and actor, who is leading the MDA Kevin Hart Kids Telethon online on Saturday.

It’s the first telethon in six years for the MDA, once known for its popular hours-long Labor Day broadcast hosted for decades by famed comic and actor Jerry Lewis. Lewis last hosted in 2010 and died in 2017.

It’ll be streamed on LOL Network platforms including YouTube and PlutoTV.

Charley Pride

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Trailblazing country music star Charley Pride will get a lifetime achievement award at the CMA Awards in November.

Pride, 82, will accept the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award on the CMA Awards on Nov. 11 on ABC.

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Three Vying to Replace Jack Cera in 96th District | News, Sports, Jobs

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STEUBENVILLE — The three men vying for the 96th District seat in Ohio’s House of Representatives share the same goal, but it’s the way each would achieve it that sets them apart.

Democrat Richard Olivito, Libertarian Oscar Herrera and Republican Ron Ferguson are vying for the seat. State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, was prohibited from seeking reelection because of term limits.

The district includes all of Jefferson and Monroe counties and a portion of Belmont County. House terms are for two years.

∫ Ferguson, 34, is a small business owner who’s been active politically, though not as a candidate.

He’s worked in several capacities — most recently as director of staff training — with Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots organization he said works to spur awareness and “helps pass policies that are good for the American people and good for Ohioans.”

As director of staff training, he said he traveled across the country, visiting 36 states, working on things like improving health care for veterans and criminal justice reform — measures that enjoyed major bi-partisan support.

Legislators “exist to pass good policies,” Ferguson said. “I have a good, solid record of helping pass good policies — the same policies I’ve worked on passing are the same policies I would have voted for if I were in office. Those are the same kinds of policies you can expect me to be behind if I’m elected — that’s the only reason I worked for passage of them, because I believed in them. I believe they will make this valley a better place.”

Ferguson said if he’s elected, “When it’s important to just stand up for principles and be solid in your foundations, I’m going to fight for what is right.”

He said job creation and health care are weighing heavily on the electorate in 2020.

While lawmakers don’t create jobs, they do shape policies that can spur economic growth. Ferguson said one of the most important things they can do is streamline bureaucratic red tape.

He also insists too many industries around the state are “being subsidized and propped up” by the citizens of the 96th District.

Ferguson, a Jefferson County native and 2008 Ohio State graduate, lives in Wintersville.

∫ Herrera, 24, sees “a general dissatisfaction” with the Republican and Democratic parties.

“People aren’t satisfied with the direction those parties are headed,” Herrera said. “As a Libertarian, I’m in neither party but I can represent the best part of the other two parties — from Republicans, that would be their fiscal response and from Democrats, the social awareness aspects of their policies. Doing so, I’m able to reach out to voters across all spectrums.”

As a Libertarian candidate, Herrera has “no Republican base and no Democratic base I can lean on for support.” The key, he said, is to “find people willing to listen to what I have to say and convince them to vote.”

“There were only 20,000 people who voted for state representative out of 80,000 eligible voters in the district,” he pointed out. “Quite a number of them didn’t vote, and if you talk to those 60,000 voters I think you’ll find they really aren’t happy with how Ohio politics is going.”

Herrera said the 96th District needs policies that encourage entrepreneurs and organizations to invest in the Ohio Valley. He said he’d like to see tech companies, even green energy and farming.

Herrera said his biggest concern is public apathy.

“People just keep voting for the same type of people in office,” he said. “We seem so tied down into our ‘tribes’ — Republican or Democrat — and there’s no conversation between the two.

“We need to be united for a better tomorrow. In our small towns, people have more in common — a strong sense of community and helping one another. We may not have the biggest city in Ohio, but we have a strong sense of community and helping one another and we should be working together, not against each other, for the common good. It’s kind of a naive idealism, but I’d rather work toward that than settle for what we have.”

Born and raised in San Diego, Herrera moved to Jefferson County about seven years ago and resides in Wintersville.

∫ Olivito, 61, has been consulting on oil and gas issues for the past eight years. He practiced law for 17 years before that with a background in labor law, plus had a three-year stint in the Ohio Department of Labor as in-house counsel for the wage and hour divisions.

“I have the knowledge and an understanding of government,” he said. “I have the experience, plain and simple, of dealing with the state Legislature. I didn’t just lobby for laws, I literally wrote three laws, (including) the state of Ohio’s first minimum wage law in 1988.”

He also wrote the proposal for Ohio’s teen curfew, “and put it before the labor committee and testified about the need. It took building coalitions to get it enacted.”

He said his work on minimum wage and prevailing wages “brought us in contact with small to large corporations. It’s a real education to understand not just labor laws, but the importance of labor laws and prevailing wages.”

He concedes his legal status is currently not in good standing, but he said he’s working on getting it reinstated. He said the disciplinary action stemmed from a bankruptcy case more than a decade ago when a clerk noticed his client had failed to sign in one of five places where a signature is required and suggested he sign in the client’s place, so he did, pointing out the document was passed by the bankruptcy judge.

Olivito said the biggest challenge facing the 96th District is jobs.

He said the COVID pandemic has been a major concern across the district, pointing out public health policies and front-line workers have done a good job.

Small businesses are reeling, however, and he said the state needs to make it easier for workers to claim their unemployment due to COVID.

Olivito graduated with honors from Oral Roberts University in 1981, majoring in history and international relations, then enrolled at Ohio Northern University Law School, earning his law degree in 1984.

He lives in Steubenville.

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