Smolinski Scholarship “Thank You’s” from Tori and Curtis

The first-ever Tom Smolinski  Diving Scholarship was awarded to Tori Taffner and Curtis Roden on  January 31st, 2017 at The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.  We all owe Kim Smolinski and her family a big “GO VIKES” and Thank You for this support of our team.  Here are thank yous from Tori and Curtis:

To everyone who donated, and those considering donating, I want to say thank you.

Tori TaffnerI am beyond appreciative to have been able to receive the first “Tom Smolinski” diving scholarship in my final year at Cleveland State University. Your contribution has allowed me to focus on my studies in my final semester rather than worrying about the financial side.

The diving community has always been a close one; I have never been to a meet where I was not able to have a conversation and get along with other divers. It has been an honor to be awarded with this scholarship as it has been named after a great man. I look forward to the future of this wonderful diving program, I know it will only improve.

This is a scholarship that will allow for the divers who come here to be able to focus more on their diving and to carry on the legacy of Mr. Smolinski. That is why I will forever be thankful for your contribution.

Thank you, Tori Taffner


To all who contributed to the “Tom Smolinski” diving scholarship

Curtis RodenI wanted to take some time to write a letter expressing my appreciation for your generosity for making this scholarship possible. I am extremely honored to be one of the first recipients of this scholarship, in the name of such an inspiring man.

Allow me take a moment to introduce myself so you can know where your money is going. I am a pre physical therapy major, with a minor in psychology and working towards a certificate in gerontology. As you may know, this degree requires a doctorate, so any assistance financially, aids a great deal by taking part of the weight off my shoulders, and allowing me to focus more on excellence in academics and diving.

Finally, I understand there are fundraisers designed to build up Tom’s scholarship. I would love to take part in these to increase funds so it will have an even greater impact on future recipients. I know that this scholarship has a bright future in helping many others like myself achieve their goals in furthering their education.

Kindest regards, Curtis Roden

Power Training Pays Off

Yesterday the CSU women’s and men’s relay teams set two new school records at the Horizon League Championship meet at UIC in Chicago.  Read details HERE. Conditioning plays a huge part in sprinters’ performance, and today’s guest blog features thoughts from Senior Robert Tolson.

Dear Donors and Alumni,

Over the past 4 years I have had an uncountable amount of experiences thanks to the Swimming and Diving Team at Cleveland State. Many of these experiences have been made possible because of generous donors and alumni such as yourself.

During my career at CSU, I have seen a lot of change in the pool, training, equipment, and coaching staff. The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium has transformed from a dull outdated pool into a tribute to the past, present and future of the CSU Swimming and Diving Program. This was a great addition to the program and truly embodies who we are and what connects each and every one of us.

Beyond the aesthetics of the Natatorium, there have been several performance and equipment upgrades at the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium. The blocks have been resurfaced and upgraded to fit back plates so every swimmer that competes at our pool has the opportunity to swim their best.

The one piece of equipment that has transformed my swimming ability over my time at CSU has been the Power Towers. As a sprinter, strength and power is a vital component of my training. When I first started swimming at CSU the team was limited to 2 very old power racks that did not function properly. They would break halfway through a set and leave the swimmers at odds. Over the next 3 years 5 Power Towers have been added to our arsenal and they have been worked very hard. Unfortunately, this still leaves the 3 coaches juggling time with the still limited number of Power Towers.

Thank you for your support of the Cleveland State Swimming and Diving Team and we hope you will be able to contribute this giving day!


Robert Tolson

Thanks Jim and Wally for TV Platform Spiff

We can thank Jim Starrett ’74 and Wally Morton for spending a day to spiff up the TV Platform with a new coat of paint. How appropriate they choose December 28th – exactly two months before CSU Giving Tuesday !

Its ’bout impossible for a guest to walk into the viewing area without getting an eyeful of the platform. Finiahing this painting knocks off another item in the tuning up of the The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.

As you can see from the intro picture the platform sits just below the Heritage Corner in a visible line of site to the pool.  Switching your field of view toward the NE corner of the pool the TV Platform is framed by new record boards to the north and timeline wall lined up above.

jim-wally-platform-NE-IMG_0687 - resize

So thanks again on behalf of our team – and Go Vikings !

Heritage Corner Kiosk Upgrade – Thanks Kurt

The  Heritage Corner is a key element of the Heritage Project, the final phase of the Champions Campaign. Thanks to advances in windows operating systems, we were able to create a website that provided information to friends and alumni during the final phase of the Champions Campaign, and then migrate that website onto a large wall-mounted PC that now serves as an interactive kiosk overlooking the pool.

When first installed in 2015 the PC had access to the website, but was not really functioning reliably as a stand-alone, “bullet proof” kiosk.  With the release of Windows 10 and its “kiosk mode” we had the technology to provide that capability.

Enter Addison Kaufman’s father Kurt, whose background in IT and willingness to reconfigure the PC while in town for the Magnus Cup resulted in “Heritage Corner Kiosk 2.0”.  WAY TO GO KURT !  With the swimming & diving season upon us this kiosk will provide a visible and efficient way for parents, team members and visitors to share 9 decades of Fenn/CSU Swimming and Diving Heritage when in The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.

If you happen to be checking out the Heritage Corner and the PC is not up and running, follow these three steps:

  1. Push the power-on button – located on the lower right side of the PC.
  2. Log on using the “kiosk” option – one of three options available
  3. Enter the password – Enter the following password: ” Excellence In All We Do ! 31 ”    (All One word, no spaces,  CASE SENSITIVE)

That will start the kiosk running, and will cycle through the half dozen most recent blogs.  It will turn off automatically after 3 hours of inactivity

And speaking of the Magnus Cup, what a great sight to see bleachers and pool filled with swimmers, parents, friends and alumni for this fifth annual edition of the Magnus Cup held November 18-20. img_0455-full-house


You can read all about the results HERE.

  • The CSU men won the Magnus Cup for the third consecutive season, posting 1,608.5 points.
  • Senior Philipp Sikatzki broke the school record in the 200 IM, reset two pool records and notched NCAA ‘B’ cut times in four events. Sophomore Tommi Wolst broke the school record in the 200 backstroke and surpassed two NCAA ‘B’ standards.
  • The CSU women finished fourth of 14 teams at the Magnus Cup with 800.5 points, their best finish at the meet since 2013.
  • Sophomore Molly McNamara broke the school record in the 100 fly, with a ‘B’ standard, and also won the 200 fly. Junior Tobie Zeller won the 100 breaststroke.

Follow the team after the holidays – the schedule is HERE.



Heritage Graphics Concepts – Sept, 2014

WallBanners_All_pano_cropThe Champions Campaign provided the funds to upgrade the record boards, add championship banners and install a new video board.  You can listen to a 1-minute Thank You video and see the results here: Champions Campaign Thank You Video.

The Heritage Project will complete the Champions Campaign by adding eye catching and emotional graphics to the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium and will feature our team’s heritage, alumni, coaches, community, history and more.

Everyone who passes by, peeks in, visits or swims in the pool should leave with a feeling of “wow” ! Alumni, especially, who see the timeline, heritage corner or Ninth Lane pictures up close should leave with a little bit of a lump in their throat or a tug at their heart as they emotionally re-connect with teammates, coaches and events and the opportunities that in some way developed because of their time with the CSU Swimming and Diving Team.

The concept graphics below are based on feedback from swimmers and divers, both men and women, who were connected with Bob Busbey and Wally Morton over the last 50 years. The Heritage Team looks forward to feedback from CSU swimming and diving alumni, coaches, current team members and friends as these images are refined during the final design, fabrication and installation phases of the Heritage Project – the third and final phase of the Champions Campaign.

You can download a .pdf file for a higher quality view here:  Heritage Concept Graphics with Descriptions  (11MB .pdf file).  Or you can view the descriptions and  images below.

NinthLane_pool_deckTHE NINTH LANE – on the south wall opposite the rec center – will feature large graphics visible from the rec center or pool deck. Pictures of teams, alumni, coaches and events since 1932 will be visible when viewed up close because of the “mosaic-like” graphics on the lower portion of the panels.Unbroken_Ninth_Lane

When viewed from up close, observers will see individual pictures.Ninth Lane photomosaic_detail

This is the view of the Ninth Lane from the Rec Center or pool deck near the north wall.NinthLane_pool_deck_crop

This is a rendering of the view from the top of the south bleachers.NinthLane_Close_Scale_crop


Western Panarama from East EndBANNERS – on the west and north walls – will feature large scale graphics visible from the bleachers, pool decks and from the south wall windows. These graphics will honor Bob Busbey and Wally Morton and will add excitement and color to the pool. These banners, heavy vinyl or light-weight cloth, could be mounted to the walls or on stand-offs to add a sense of motion to the graphics.Coach_Banners_Busbey Coach_Banners_Morton




The concept would be to utilize a range of action shots on either side of Bob and Wally.North_Banners_Four

North_Banners_One North_Banners_TwoWest_Banners_One









West_Banners_Three - CopyThis is what visitors would when viewed from the eastern bleachers WallBanners_All_pano_crop

From the south bleachers it would look like this.

This is a view from the pool deck on the north side of the pool.WallBanners_North_close_crop



East wall from NW cornerTIMELINE – at the base of the east bleachers – will feature people and events in the history of the program from 1932 through 2039. They will capture key events since the first Fenn team and continue through the 75th anniversary of Cleveland State University in 2039.

Many additional dates, people and events will be available on the CSU Swimming and Diving Heritage Website. – www.csuvikings-swim-dive-heritage.com.

The timeline would extend from 1932 through 2039-the date picked because it is 25 years from the launch of the Heritage Website and will coincide with the CSU 75th anniversary.



These concept drawing sere created to share the vision of the timeline.  The events shown on the detailed mockup below are simply to show size and scale – just placeholders for now.  THE HERITAGE COMMITTEE NEEDS YOUR HELP- we’re looking for historically correct inputs and suggestions for entries on the time line.  For example, we wouldn’t repeat coaches names each year, just their first year as head coach.  The “milestones” below were taken from media guides, photo albums and other records.  YOU can make a difference in what gets posted to the wall; just send your corrections or additions to heritage@csu-swimming-diving.com.


Here is a view of the timeline from the foot of the eastern bleachers.Timeline_near_perspective_crop


 North Wall from S Bleachers-croppedCOMMUNITY CORNER – located on the north end of the east bleachers – will be visible from the rec center as well as the south bleachers. These graphics will capture community involvement in the pool and will focus on the many local, regional and international groups who have used and made history in The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium. The concept below is one option being considered for the Community Corner.

CommunityCorner_3_AllFilled - Copy

When initially designed and installed, we will leave some space for additional entries.  Other options might include an actual bulletin board as part of the corner.CommunityCorner_3 Center Fill only - Copy

This is the view of the Community Corner from the south bleachers.  Note the watchful eye of Magnus between the two new Record Boards and visibility from the Rec Center.CommunityCorner From South Bleachers

Heritage Corner

HERITAGE CORNER – located on north east corner of the second floor of the pool between the two main entrances – will be the home of a large kiosk. The attention-getting graphics housing the computer running an interactive touch-sensitive screen will honor the Program’s heritage.

A second kiosk will be located in the hallway and will be mounted on the bulletin board next to the ticket window.HeritageCorner_flat

From the western end of the pool the Heritage Corner will appear as a boundary for the Timeline, offsetting the Community Corner on the north.HeritageCorner_Longview_crop

Notice the 3-dimensional raised panel over the touch-enabled screen in this view from the south east corner of the pool just inside the “tunnel” entrance. This panel, approximately 6″-8″ deep and 4′ wide, provides both dimensionality and security.HertiageCorner_close_crop

Here is view of the Community Corner, Timeline and Heritage Corner viewed from the western pool deck.East_panorama_pieces_crop


ADDITIONAL GRAPHICS will be developed for the men’s and women’s locker room, door wraps, graphics for the “tunnel” and other areas in and around the pool deck.

Check out the concepts for the Tunnel Entrance to the pool – and let us know YOUR preference: Bright Blue or Dark Cool ?

arch: 16-11-14

Tom Smolinski Diving Scholarship Buffalo Bison Event

A very successful outing was hosted by Tom Smolinski’s lifelong friend Rob Hanlon for “The Cleveland State University Tom Smolinski Endowed Diving Scholarship” on August 15, 2016. The Event took place at the Buffalo Bison Coca Cola Baseball Field as the AAA Bisons took on the Red Wings. Activities included a Reverse Raffle, Silent Auction and plenty of delicious food and drink. Over 70 people attended included Kim, her daughters, Tom’s parents, CSU Head Coach Paul Graham, CSU Diving Coach Rich Karban, former Coach Wally Morton, and so many of those who loved Tom.

The Buffalo Bison Baseball Outing was an event organized to honor Tom’s Legacy and continue to grow the Cleveland State University Diving Scholarship in his name.  CSU is honoring Tom by awarding two scholarships in his name for the 2016-17 school year. The recipients will be announced at the beginning of the season at the annual Splash Bash on October 1, 2016.

The Event was a spectacular success with over $6,000 being raised for the Tom Smolinski Endowment. The Endowment continues to grow as we honor the life of Tom who was one of CSU’s greatest divers. Kim and the entire Smolinski family along with the community of Buffalo have made a real difference in people’s lives as others will have the opportunity to receive a degree at CSU and participate in the sport of diving.

In case you missed the results of the Highly Successful Giving day 2016 – AND the men and women’s teams’ performances at the Horizon League Championship – you can read the February 28th email sent to friends and alumni HERE.

Hope to see you at the annual Splash Bash fundraiser – Saturday, Oct 1st at The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.   Other CSU Homecoming events are here.


CSU and the Olympic Experience

Carol and I had the opportunity to recently attend our tenth summer Olympic Games in Rio. The City of Rio de Janeiro should be commended for being the host for the biggest and best event that is on a magnitude unequalled in sports or any other enterprise.  Despite monumental challenges along with negative media scrutiny they were magnificent. Everything about our experience was perfect.  The people were welcoming; the mass transportation was efficient and comfortable; the venues are in beautiful settings surrounded by mountains and sea; and everything was on time. What attracts us to the Olympics is that it brings people from all over the world to celebrate in a peaceful way. We always love the culture of the host city and Rio was extraordinary.

CSU has a long history with the Olympics. It’s greatest Olympian was Bob Busbey, who was one of only four USA Swim Coaches in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Swimming is the strongest USA Sport in the Olympic Games and starts immediately after the Opening Day Ceremony.  The USA Swimmers had an historic performance and exceeded all expectations. It created an energy that was contagious with all sports.

CSU Athletes and Coaches have been numerous. The greatest performance was Matt Gaffori who won the Silver in Heavy Weight Division of Greco Roman Wrestling in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Carol and I were there to see him wear his CSU Sweat Shirt as he ran around the Arena.  In swimming we have had many who have been part of our program that have participated in the Olympics.

Another Olympic connection is Thiago Lazarini who swam with us in early 2000’s. He is from San Palo, Brazil and works for Proctor & Gamble in Costa Rico. In 2008 Nedim Nisic became the first active Viking swimmer in the history of our program to qualify for the Olympics. He was a Horizon League medal winner in the 100 fly as a sophomore and junior.  Nedim is vice-president at Aztek here in Cleveland and was instrumental in developing the CSU Swimming and Diving Heritage Website.

Our journey this year was full of CSU connections. In 1983 the CSU Swimming & Diving Team traveled to Rio as part of an exchange program with Gamma Filho University. History professor Don Ramos established the relationship to strengthen ties with the two similar urban educational institutions. Everyone involved on our Team will never forget the amazing time we experienced in both clinics and competitions.  Shortly after that Carol and I hosted two students from Gamma Filho shortly after our son was born. One was Cristina Santoni who went on to be a CSU Swimmer in the 1984-85 school year.  The experience was life changing for her. After staying with us she moved into Fenn Tower and absolutely loved CSU!  Her CSU/ Gama Filho University major was in Economics with an emphasis on accounting – a background that helped her a lot as she went on to be Senior Vice President of Chase Bank in Brazil. She has gone on to be a small business entrepreneur and among other things manages the Djan Madruga Sports Academy which is named for her husband who is a Olympic medalist in two sports and swam for the great Doc Councilman at Indiana University.

Cristina was our host for the Olympics and we stayed at her apartment which was perfectly situated to ride the mass transit and easily get to any venue. She and her maid Lucy cooked all our meals. Her husband Djan was the swim commentary for Fox Sports. He was a torch relay participants and was on television the entire time we were there.

We attended opening ceremonies, gymnastics, slalom canoe/kayaking, cycling, beach volleyball, and of course swimming! At swimming we spent time with former swimmer Ian Murray who was an Olympic Coach for the Seychelles. His swimming insights and analysis were right on the mark! The USA fans were everywhere and made me feel pride for our country. The true Olympic spirit creates an atmosphere where you cheer for all the countries.

We left the Rio Olympics a bit early to attend Amanda Pallija and Wesley Barnhart’s wedding in North Lawrence, Ohio. Carol and I love swimmer weddings and Amanda who graduated in 2014 is one of my favorites. (Everyone is my favorite) Swimmers both near and far from New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden attended. To Carol and me it was our embrace of all nations and what the Olympic Spirit is all about! What a way to conclude our Olympic experience!!!!!

CSU Swimming and Diving is forever!

2015-16 Is in the books!

WOW!  What an amazing season!  Dedicating the Heritage project was just the start, having an athlete at NCAA’s, icing on the cake.  When I think about the past season, there are a few words that come to mind.

History making  – “Momentum”  “Stability”

For a program steeped in history, this season was one for the record books.  The team was excited for the unveiling of the Heritage project.   Being able to see and feel the history of the swimming & diving program is an invaluable tool for the coaching staff.  It enables us to help the team realize that the program is more than just about themselves.  More history was made at the “Magnus Cup”.  The men were able to break four Busbey Natatorium records.  To witness the names of Morales, Carey and Smith being replaced by CSU athletes is so exciting.  And to finish up the year, Philipp Sikatzki had an absolutely incredible NCAA meet!  It was amazing to see “Cleveland State University” right there with the University of Texas; the University of Florida; the Ohio State University and so many other great institutions.

“Momentum” was another key component to the season.  We started with a team overnight at Camp Christopher.  It was an important team building event that got us off campus and starting to bond as “Vikings”.  The team had the opportunity to discuss how we would “take care of business” during the season.  Moving onto the competition portion of the season, the team performed well and had an outstanding Magnus Cup.  The athletes and coaches were excited to keep training at a high level and represent CSU at the Horizon League meet.  The first night of the meet was remarkable!  The women started the meet with the 3rd best time in program history in the 200 Medley Relay.  The men topped that performance by breaking the old team record by 1.5 seconds.  They also set a new Horizon League record with their performance.  From this point forward the team was on fire!  The “Vikings” proceeded to break 11 team records and 5 Horizon League marks at the meet.  Philipp’s exploits at NCAA’s was the cherry on top of the sundae.

“Stability” is another invaluable component to the 2015-16 season.  Transitions can create a bit of uncertainty.  With the coaching staff intact for year two, I was more comfortable.  The team had a much better idea of what I expected from them and they were more comfortable.  This translated into a better team dynamic and the performance reflected as such.

Moving forward, the coaching staff is eager to build upon the legacy of Coach Busbey and Coach Morton.  It is pretty easy to stay motivated when you look up and see Bob and Wally watching over what they have created.  With the continued support of “Vikings” worldwide, we will keep building!

Dmitri Ponomarev Remembers Tom Smolinski

Join me on #csugivingday on Wednesday Feb. 24.  As we honor Tom and support the TEAM I love! When you participate on CSU Giving Day, you make the Swim-Dive Team strong!tom smolinski

Tom was a great teammate,roommate, and most importantly, a great friend. He had an amazing quality of always having a positive attitude, which helped us overcome adversity during our college experience. Tom was very passionate about education, and his major in communications in particular. He was truly a student first, even with all of the time and energy spent with the Team that won back to back Conference Championships. Graduating from college meant a lot for Tom. We graduated together in 1999 and were roommates at the time – renting an apartment in Euclid together. I will always remember celebrating after receiving our Bachelor’s degrees!

Tom was very excited about his internship with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper in the Summer of 1998. While many  of us struggled through our internships/summer jobs, Tom truly enjoyed his and was very passionate about his experience- I was jealous.

I will never forget how excited Tom was about getting his college education and being a member of a Team that never lost a Conference Championship. Amazing!

Dmitri Ponomarev, CSU ’99

February 24th – EVERYBODY IN !!

IMG_0238-CSU Mens Magnus Cup Chapmions 2015_resizeWOW!  Another season is almost in the books. The older I get, the faster time goes. The season began way back in September with a roster of over 50 athletes. We welcomed 21 new swimmers and divers to the ways of the “Viking”. Early season was highlighted by the dedication of the Heritage project. All the great history that this shares with the team and public is truly amazing.

The “Vikings” finished up the first part of the season with the Magnus Cup. This has been a great opportunity to peak as a team and see where we are at training wise in the season. There were many great performances highlighted by breaking two Busbey Natatorium records and four team records. Philipp Sikaztki broke the pool record of Pablo Morales in the 100 butterfly and the team of Sikatzki, Tommi Wolst, Szymon Golczyk and Robert Tolson took down the 400 medley relay record. Team records were recorded by Molly McNamara in the 200 butterfly, Szymon Golczyk in the 200 butterfly, Tommi Wolst in the 200 IM and the above mentioned 400 medley relay. In the classroom, we had thirty-six athletes achieve over a 3.0 grade point average and five that had a 4.0!

The start of the second half of the season was very warm!  The team was able to train in San Juan, Peurto Rico for a week and enjoyed perfect weather. Wally Morton and his wife, Carol, were there to ensure that the trip ran smoothly. The team trained great and has continued that with some very solid training and meets in January. As the calendar moves into February the team is eager show off all the hard work!  The Horizon League championship’s is being held at Oakland University. Both of the teams are eager to swim/dive the way they have been training and swimming at the meets…………FAST!tom smolinski

One of the things we always discuss is the history; and all of the athletes that have helped get the Cleveland State University swimming and diving program where it is today. It is a topic we do not take lightly and are always working to make you proud of the current team. As we go through the process and build upon that legacy, we ask for your help. The annual CSU “Giving Day” is February 24th, which is also the first day of the Horizon league championships. As the team strives to perform in the pool and on the diving boards, we ask you to step forward and show your support by giving to Cleveland State University swimming and diving!  We are striving to be the best team in the Horizon league and we would LOVE to have the alumni to be the most active group on “Giving Day”!

See you at the pool!

Coach Paul Graham