St. Peter, Minn. – Although the buzz circulating the Gustavus Natatorium had the feel and electricity of a rivalry dual between the Gusties and Oles, it wasn’t a swim meet that brought the capacity crowd to campus and Lund Center. On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 12, the Gustavus Adolphus Athletic Department and the swimming and diving program honored a legend by naming the Gustavus Natatorium after 1942 graduate and Hall of Fame Head Coach John Victor (Vic) Gustafson.
Over 100 swimming and diving alumni from eras dating back to the 1950s turned out to honor a true icon in the history of Gustavus athletics.
“I was expecting it to be big, but not this big,” laughed Head Coach Jon Carlson. “My hope was that we would run out of nametags and we succeeded in that goal.”
Carlson said that it was great to have such an outstanding turnout not only from recent graduates but also from Gusties whose careers at Gustavus date back to when Vic was the head coach. “It was such a special day and I am so touched by the amount of people who came back to campus to help us honor Vic. It truly shows the impact he had on this campus and this program. To have all his swimmers back on campus is something Vic would have been sincerely proud of.”
Vic Gustafson was the swimming coach at Gustavus from 1945-77. During his coaching career he had eight MIAC Championship teams: 1949, 1952, 1955, and 1956-60. In addition, eight his teams were second place finishers in the MIAC. A member of the Gustavus Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 1979, Vic was honored by several associations for his long and outstanding career as a swimming coach. One of his highest honors came in 1973 when he received the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Distinguished Coach Award. Along with swimming, Vic also coached track, hockey, golf, tennis and cross country during his Gustavus tenure. He served as Associate Professor of physical education and the outdoor education specialist for the department, an area for which he was regionally recognized as an outstanding professional.
Today’s event kicked off the Vic Gustafson Pool Initiative, which is a fundraising campaign whose goal is to raise money for the renovation of Gustavus’s natatorium facilities. The pool renovation project will include a new state-of-the-art sound system, new starting blocks similar to those used at the NCAA championships, a new digital scoreboard, a new timing system complete with operational floor plates to ensure quality, a new trampoline and harness system, new lane lines, and new training equipment including pace clocks, video systems, and power towers. Once renovations are complete, The Vic Gustafson Pool will be one of the finest swimming and diving facilities in Minnesota.
“We are so fortunate to have had a few individuals step in and jump-start this initiative. Because of them, the campaign is off to a great start,” commented Carlson. “It’s a big project and we are so appreciative of the gifts we have already received. Today’s naming of the pool not only gave us a chance to honor legend, but it also set a terrific tone for this season and the initiative. This is a reality now and it feels good to see Vic’s name above the pool.”
Following a short reception to start the morning, a program was held in the Hall of Champions. Coach Carlson along with Athletic Director Tom Brown, current Gustavus swimmers Tommy Panetti and Rebecca Stewart, 1960 graduate Arne Johnson, and Paul Gustafson, the grandson of Vic Gustafson, spoke at the program.
“I can’t tell you how moved I am to have the old guard who swam for Vic back on campus today,” Carlson said. “It was so much fun to be around them and to hear the stories about Vic and swimming at Gustavus. They are the heart of Gustavus swimming and represent what we are all about. A goal of mine when I took over this program was to carry on the tradition set forth by Vic and his teams – that came full circle today. Seeing members of Gustavus’s championship teams of late 1950s in conversation with members of last season’s championship women’s team was a special sight for me.”
Following the program and a period of conversation and story telling, the Gusties, along with those daring alumni, headed to the pool for the Alumni Pentathlon. The event order included the 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly, 100 individual medley, 50 backstroke, and 50 breaststroke.
“We were pumped up to finally race a little bit today,” commented Carlson about the alumni meet. “Practice has been going great early on and this was a fun opportunity to see who is ready to compete.”
The Gustavus swimming and diving teams will be in the pool next on Saturday, Nov. 2. The team will split in two with one half traveling to Eau Claire, Wis. to face UW-Eau Claire in a dual and the other half heading to Winona, Minn. to take part in the Saint Mary’s Invitational.