Last week brought sadness and uncertainty to some Radford University athletes.
On Tuesday, the school announced it was dropping four of its 19 sports - men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field (considered a separate NCAA sport), women's swimming and diving, and field hockey. Radford also announced it will add women's lacrosse.
"We're supposed to be a family, and they're chopping us off like we mean nothing," teary swimmer Laura Bradley, a freshman on partial scholarship, said at the Dedmon Center pool before practice Wednesday. "We want to swim here. We want to stay together. It's our family."
This will be the final school year for all four sports.
"I honestly shed a few tears," said junior hurdler Vincent Wyatt, a William Fleming High School graduate on full scholarship.
The athletes are now faced with a huge question.
"What do I do now?" wondered swimmer Lindsey Anderson, a freshman walk-on.
Do they look for new colleges and continue to be NCAA Division I athletes? Or do they give up their athletic careers and remain students at Radford?
"I only looked at [RU] for swimming, and they took it away, and now I have to transfer," said Bradley, choking up. "I came here to swim, and I want to continue to swim."
Others have yet to decide if they will transfer this summer or not. They will be able to keep their RU scholarships if they stay.
"I really do love the school," said sophomore swimmer Sarah Fredericksen, a Jefferson Forest High School graduate on partial scholarship. "It would be hard to start over. I'm not really sure. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that swimming's not going to be here anymore.
"I could always join the club team, but it's not saying, 'I'm a Division I swimmer.' It's going to be kind of hard to know that I worked so hard to try and get to that Division I level and then not be able to show that I am a Division I swimmer."
The swimming, field hockey and men's track and field teams gathered in three separate meetings Tuesday to learn of the news from athletic director Robert Lineburg.
"We just all started crying," sophomore Mary Flinn said of the swim team meeting.
Some swimmers were irked by the brevity of Lineburg's appearance.
"He wasn't even in there for 30 seconds," Anderson said.
Athletes said the meetings left them in the dark about the reasons behind the decision.
"People get furious, like why [cut] us for [lacrosse]?" Bradley said. "I wish we had more information so we could understand."
The affected athletes gathered in a dorm Tuesday night to console one another.
"No one slept," Bradley said. "Everyone's up crying together."
Women's swimming and diving has been a varsity team at Radford since the 2001-02 school year.
"I never thought that this would happen," Fredericksen said. "I was in complete shock. I spent a couple hours crying. I worked so hard to get here, and then have them tell me, 'Oh, sorry, you can't swim anymore,' it hurts a lot."
Bradley wants to transfer, but she is worried about finding a school that will want her.
"When you decide to go to a school, ... you burn your bridges with the other schools," Bradley said. "So what are you going to do - 'Radford dropped us. Can you be my backup?' That's not what they want to hear."
'A big family'
Men's track and field has been at RU since the 1997-98 school year.
Wyatt, who was the university's male athlete of the year for the 2012-13 school year, plans to find another college so he can continue his track career.
"I have these huge decisions to make here in the next few months," he said.
Wyatt broke the school and Big South records in the 60-meter hurdles last year, when he advanced to the NCAA indoor national championships. He owns the 12th-best time (7.78 seconds) in the nation in the 60-meter hurdles this season.
"I wish I could stick around. I only have one more year," he said. "I just wanted to finish it off here.
"I love my coaches. I love my team - the boys and girls, we're all a big family."
Coy Seneff, a freshman pole vaulter who graduated from Franklin County High School, also wants to transfer. He spent four hours Wednesday emailing coaches at other colleges.
"I came to college to vault," said Seneff, who is on partial scholarship. "I just can't give up now."
The indoor season concludes next month, The track and field athletes who want to transfer will have to decide if they want to compete for Radford in the upcoming outdoor season or redshirt so they can have an extra season of eligibility at their next school.
Radford has had field hockey since 1981. It is a fall sport, so the Highlanders have already played their final season without even knowing it at the time.
Players are devastated, said freshman Meghan Smiga.
"I love this sport," said Smiga, who is on partial scholarship. "I hope to continue playing field hockey, but I have to see.
"Field hockey has been a part of my life for a very long time. For it to be cut three years short [of graduating] is very upsetting."
This is the first time Radford has axed teams since men's lacrosse and women's gymnastics were cut in 2001.
Once women's lacrosse debuts, Radford will have six men's sports and 10 women's sports.
There were financial reasons behind cutting the four sports. Lineburg said Tuesday that "we were spread very thin with our resources."
He added in a statement Thursday that the decision involved "resource requirements to compete within the Big South" and an analysis of "the costs associated with providing a highly competitive sports program."
The four sports have a combined 14.4 full scholarships. The four sports have a combined annual cost of $724,000 (including operations, scholarships and coaches' salaries) in the $11.5 million athletic budget. The $724,000 will be reallocated to other sports, including women's lacrosse.
Field hockey and women's swimming are not Big South sports, which was a factor in cutting those teams. The conference does sponsor women's lacrosse. Men's indoor and outdoor track and field are also Big South sports.
The swim team has just one meet left - the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association championships later this month.
"If we get a [school] record, we'll forever be record holders. So that's what we're aiming to do," Bradley said. "We're going to leave our mark."
The hardest part, said the swimmers, is that they are losing one another.
"Our family's being ripped apart," Fredericksen said.