2016 smolinski - buffalo event-cr

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

Jim Lamastra Remembers Tom Smolinski

I sincerely ask you to support the  Tom Smolinski Scholarship on Giving Day on Wednesday February 24! By doing so you will provide more scholarships for the CSU Swim-Dive Teams.  Please read why it means so much to me. #csugivingday

During our time at CSU, we were taught how to exhibit toughness and a will to win on a daily basis. No individual on this planet defined those qualities more than Tom!

As a personal friend since our high school days in the Buffalo NY area, I wanted to share a quick memory of Tom.

First off, Tom was a legend in the western New York diving community for several years. As such, when I got to know him, he was an established “star” who I was a little intimidated to meet.

Our first meeting took place during a dual meet between our rival high schools. Up to this point in time, I did not appreciate what athleticism a diver could display and Tom was the first I had seen with his skill level. By the end of that first personal encounter I was Tom’s biggest fan. We immediately became good friends and ended up running in the same social circles for the rest of our high school days.

At the end of our senior seasons, he and I had the good fortune to be roommates at the NY State swimming and diving championships. It was there that I got to truly see what a fun spirited kid Tom was. The University of Rochester pool deck lit up when Tom was on deck. He had an amazing ability to connect with swimmers, divers and coaches from the entire state. It was no surprise that Tom was being heavily recruited by major NCAA division 1 programs.

Unfortunately Tom had a little too much fun that last high school season and decided to focus on his studies at a local community college rather than continue his diving career. We continued to stay in touch when I went off to study and swim at CSU in the Fall of 1993.

Tom went on to have a great career at CSU as a key part of two Conference Championship Teams! He was a winner in every way.

Bogdan Kozul Remembers Tom Smolinski

It was an honor to dive with Tom Smolinski at Cleveland State University. He was a great diver that kept us entertained and focused. We showed up every day because as a teammate Tom made it fun and pushed us to be our best.

Tom described diving to others in practical terms “You have to be nuts to dive.” He explained the concept of climbing a ladder and then throwing all your weight at the end of a fiberglass board. “While the board launches you in the air, you are expected rotate and twist as many times as you can before crashing into the pool. You always hope for a soft landing but most times it leads to an inevitable beating.”

Diving practice with Tom was a thrill all by itself. If you weren’t holding your head from a near concussion, you were holding your gut from laughing so hard at one of his jokes or stunts that he contrived for the sole purpose of distracting us from physical and mental anguish. Most of us would have loved to end the daily beatings inherent with the sport, but Tom would keep us from self-imploding at practice.

Tom Smolinski was someone that was always there to pick us up and make us laugh. He never let us quit, teaching us how to be resilient – which made many of life’s daily beatings a little more manageable.

Bogdan Kozul, CSU ‘98

tom smolinski

Tom Smolinski Endowed Diving Scholarship

Dear CSU Viking Diving & Swimming Alums and Friends,

It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Tom Smolinski, a proud CSU Viking Diver and class of ’99 graduate. Thanks to the commitment of many, however, his legacy can live on with the Tom Smolinski Endowed Diving Scholarship.

We have an incredible opportunity to honor Tom and his family along with strengthening the Cleveland State University Women’s and Men’s Swim-Dive program by providing scholarship assistance to the team. CSU Giving Day 2016 provides this opportunity.

Kim with Kids- IMG_3427

Kim Smolinski with daughters in The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium during Heritage Graphics installation – August, 2015

Did you know the Tom Smolinski family led by his widow Kim and her two young twin daughters has raised almost $30,000 in order to establish the Endowment? The Robert F. Busbey Charitable Foundation will provide a matching grant on Giving Day for all donations up to $5,000.  The money will not only help the Divers but the Swimmers as it will enable more scholarship money to be awarded to all team members.

Here’s how you can get involved and make a difference. On Wednesday February 24 (GIVING DAY) visit http://givingday.csuohio.edu to make your gift.  Click on the ATHLETICS tab then be sure to specify the Tom Smolinski Endowed Diving Scholarship as the recipient of your donation.

  • The Tom Smolinski Endowed Scholarship will make a difference for Swimming and Diving.
  • Let’s honor a two time Horizon League (MCC) Team member who loved CSU and put family first.
  • While the amount of the donation is important, even more urgent is to show you care by participating on Giving Day at any donation level.

Your simple act of pushing the donation button on CSU GIVING DAY Wednesday February 24 will show everyone how much Swimming and Diving friends and alumni positively impact the University. No matter what the amount of your gift, the fact that you engaged and gave is what’s most important.

Help us honor Tom and support CSU Swimming and Diving. Please “PUSH THE BUTTON” on GIVING DAY, February 24th.

Vikings Forever,

Jeff Arnold, Former Head Diving Coach (1981-2002)


IMG_0238-CSU Mens Magnus Cup Chapmions 2015_resize

An Amazing Difference Maker!

The Holiday season is upon us and my heart bursts (no pun intended) with pride as I experienced the impact of the Heritage Project on CSU Athletics. My experience during late November when I attended the Magnus Cup Swimming and Diving Invitational and the Horizon League Championship game of Women’s Volleyball was phenomenal and something I wish to share with you.

The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium has never looked better. As I looked down upon our world class aquatic facility from the spectator area above the new graphics visible in all directions , the Video Interactive Kiosk, the state of the art Score Board, the beautiful blue water and the history of our program were evident everywhere. The Wow Effect was in full bloom as spectators, coaches, swimmers and divers all remarked how exhilarating the appearance of the pool impacted us all. I had the opportunity to swim between sessions and what amazed me most was how you could see all the graphic displays in the water and the motivational impact that was felt. I literally glided through the water with a feeling of joy. It is an amazing feeling knowing how much time, effort and expertise came together to meet the many goals of the Heritage Committee.

Between sessions I also attended my first Horizon League Championship Event in Woodling Gymnasium. The CSU Viking Women’s Volleyball Team dominated Valparaiso University to win the crown! Pride, Enthusiasm, Discipline, Athleticism and Focus were evident in the winning performance. I am impressed with Coach Chuck Voss and his staff with the high level of performance obtained by their Team.

The CSU Swimming and Diving Team had Championship performances in breaking four pool and school records and winning many events. The Men won the Magnus Cup and both teams showed great improvement. I was Viking Proud! Coach Graham and his staff are to be commended.

The Heritage Project is about Connecting, Recruiting, and providing support for the program we love. The support can be displayed not only in monetary donations but providing resources to help all those who are and have been in the program through career development and the many other critically important factors needed to make a bright future available.

Our next focus is promoting the Tom Smolinski Endowment for Diving on CSU Giving Day on Wednesday February 24, 2016. On that day you will be able to give as little at $5 (more if you like !) with just a click of the mouse or touch of the finger! Tom, a former two times Conference Champion Diver (98/99), recently tragically died in an automotive accident.  His wife Kim along with her two young daughters has raised over $25,000 dollars.

The Busbey Foundation has made a commitment to match all gifts given up to $5K. We plan to  donate this match on Giving Day.  More than just raising funds for Tom’s endowment we would like to also see Swimming and Diving alumni the most involved giving CSU alumni in terms of the number of Giving Day donations. With hundreds of alumni we CAN demonstrate our TEAM IS FOREVER attitude.

As we approach the Giving Day Date we will continue to remind all to get involved at whatever level you can afford. The most important factor is that you CARE!  Help us help reach other alumni.  And most important on Giving Day “Just push the button” !

Carol and I wish everyone the happiest of holidays! May you truly be touched by the love and joy that surround us!  Vikings Forever!

Pool West view from Deck- upper crop

New CSU RFB Natatorium – A Platform for Recruiting, Fund Raising and Connecting

Thanks to phenomenal support from connected swimming and diving alumni, The Robert F. Busbey Natatorium looks newer today than when it was new 40 years ago. Here’s an update from the September 26, 2015 Champions Campaign Dedication.

The star of the dedication was of course the new pool.  The North and West wall graphics feature 80 years advice from two great coaches: Bob Busbey and Wally Morton.North Banners

pool west banners

NLB Viewers Large ScaleThe Ninth Lane Banner highlighted Magnus watching over and motivating our teams while honoring alumni with thousands of photos – each with its own story.  This was clearly the “go to” location where swimmers, spectators and alumni congregated to look for “their story”.  We hope this will be the source of many “selfies” which will in turn create even more stories.




NLB from pool deck

The neatly wrapped video screen and brand new lane timer provide state-of-the-art timing capabilities. Installers from Colorado Timing have commented this is one of the best “wraps” they’ve seen.Video and TImer Board

New bottom paint and nearly invisible water add to the feeling of “new”.Pool water west view

Nine decades of team Heritage surrounds the pool with Championship Banners and record boards.Banner Flying High

new record boardThe Timeline Wall boldly displaying team accomplishments in the pool, classroom and community.  With room for another 24 years, which happens to correspond to CSU’s 75th anniversary, this area was designed to grow with the team over time.Pool East view from Deck

Pool East view from Deck-2

Timeline ViewersCommunity Corner from Rec CenterThe Community Corner highlights CSU neighborhood partners.  We hope this area, clearly visible from the Rec Center, will become a “posting place” for all who use the pool or plan events for the pool.corner with logos-second

Heritage Corner from NorthThe Heritage Corner interactive kiosk brings team history to life for those in the pool and everyone world-wide.  The two donor panels shout out THANK YOU to the 183 friends and alumni who made Wally’s dream of capturing the program’s history and posting team pictures in the pool come true.

Members of the Champions Campaign and Heritage Project committees are shown next to the donors.  Wally & Joe launched the Champions Program in 2009 along with Jim Smith and Mike Dolzak.  Mike Lehto, Tom Fattlar, Jim Starrett, John McCreery, Renee Adam and I signed on to complete the Heritage Project. Coach Paul Graham joined last year. Without John Parry’s support and President Berkman’s commitment to CSU swimming and diving, the pool bottom would not be shiny white and the water would not be crystal clear.Heritage Corner Donors

Flying Hand Design studios sat with us in the pool, listened and carefully noted our objectives for each heritage element, and then captured our visions in bold style.  Repros Inc. brought them to life.  And did so within a very aggressive budget and in a time frame that was often measured in days not weeks (and even hours !).  Thank you Repros for your team’s expertise and dedication to the Heritage Project.

John Parry was MC for Saturday’s ceremony.  Coach Paul Graham stressed the “three C’s” embodied in the day’s events.  He laid out the importance of CONNECTIONS, the CELEBRATION enabled by the time, treasures and talents of the many alumni involved, and the importance of the decades-long CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY heritage as part of CSU swimming and diving proud history and bright future.

President Berkman thanked the swimming and diving alumni for reinforcing the importance of student athletics to the university and community. He highlighted the team’s history of innovation, from the design of the pool and pioneering strength training to global recruiting and local connecting. The President also held up the team’s philanthropy and use of technology to stay connected as an example of best practice for CSU athletics and academics as well as colleges and universities across the nation.

In closing John Parry reminded everyone that “Tradition Never Graduates”.

Bob’s and Wally’s roles in cementing the Fenn/CSU swimming and diving program, figuratively and literally, have been huge and unprecedented.  No program in swimming and diving history has benefited more from two individuals than ours.

We expressed our feelings on behalf of all alumni to Wally:

“Wally – You defined who we are as true Vikings.  You expanded the program with unparalleled loyalty to Bob.  And dedication to the teams, CSU and the world of swimming.  You understand the importance of preparation in all we do here in the pool, classroom and out in the community.  You are the winningest coach in CSU history.  Most important – you truly love every swimmer and diver on every team you have ever coached (even those that were hard to love, even on training trips)”.Wally by his banner


The Heritage Project represents much more than pictures, websites and eye-popping graphics. We have created a platform for recruiting, fund raising and connecting.  We know this lightning fast, world-class hall will continue to attract amazing women and men from around the world and down the street to become CSU swimmers & divers. And Leaders!

The Heritage Project will enable current and future alumni, and the University’s administration, to stay connected.  To expand support for CSU Swimming and Diving – whether it’s building new lockers, funding scholarships, recruiting top talent or writing new chapters to fill in the next 24 years on the Timeline Wall.

In closing I would call your attention to the wording above the Heritage Corner.  You can read this as two of our  key values – TEAM is Forever, and EXCELLENCE in All We Do.Heritage Corner-Top Lines

Heritage CommitteeAs we look forward I like to think of it this way: Team Excellence is Forever In All We Do.

On behalf of Swimming and Diving Friends and Alumni from around the world THANK YOU again from everyone on the Champions Campaign and Heritage Committee who have worked since 2009 to make last weekend’s events a reality.

Dave Guinther ’69

Splash Bash Post-Script – The post-Splash Bash BBQ was clearly a huge hit with everyone, and a tradition we hope continues forever. As a committee we joked about “having our cake and eating it too”. This came true last weekend thanks to “CPG” and the current teams Moms and Dads [Private note to Brian Bailey – please thank your team for the tremendous parent/team/alumni BBQ and the special “turkey treat” that powered Wally and I through Saturday evening].The Cake

parent team alumni bbq

We weren’t able to get all the alumni who joined us Saturday in the same lane however here are many of the old and new alumni who were there:Alumni at BBQ