Olympian transfer is elevating ASU women's swimming to new heights

Cierra Runge, an Olympic gold medalist, is making ASU her home

The ASU women's swim program has gained an invaluable asset to their already rising team in the form of Olympic gold medalist Cierra Runge

The Olympian has been swimming since she was four-years-old. Runge started club swimming at 10 years old, under then club coach Bob Bowman, and went on to make the national team at just 18 years old.

Runge then qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and spent time training in Arizona once again under Bowman. She then won the gold as part of the 4x200 freestyle relay team.

Runge has hopped around from school to school during her college years. She began her collegiate career at the University of California, Berkley, and after staying there for a year, she transferred to the University of Wisconsin. However, Runge sees herself staying in Tempe until she retires after either the 2020 or the 2024 Olympic games.

Runge credits the close relationship she has built with Bowman over the years as the reasoning behind her decision to come to ASU. 

"We get how each other work," Runge said. "He knows what to say to motivate and to push me."

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Runge will not be able to compete until January. Despite the delay, the Sun Devils addition of an athlete with an Olympic standard has already positively impacted the team.

"To have someone who has already been there and is still there helps the athletes see what it takes to get to that level," women's senior assistant coach Rachel Stratton-Mills said. "She's a leader by example. It's in everything — in how she handles herself in the weight room, how she handles herself in the weight room, and even in her nutrition. She's really open to talking to everyone about that."

Runge's presence is not lost on her teammates, either. 

"It's great to see what she does," said teammate and junior Chloe Isleta. "Learning from someone you've looked up to and learning how to be the best you can be is an amazing opportunity because she's one of the best swimmers in the world. She knows how to pull everyone together as a family."

Runge has high hopes, not only for her individual career, but for the team as well. Her goals are clear cut and absolutely achievable given her impressive records.

"I want to be able to get really high in the rankings and win a Pac-12 title," Runge said. "I personally would love to win a national title, too. To see how high we can get in the rankings both as a team and as an individual while I'm still eligible is what I'm really looking forward to."

Although both the men's and women's teams will be traveling to Florida this week to take on the Florida State Seminoles, Runge's first official meet as a Sun Devil will be against Washington State on Jan. 12, 2019. 

Reach the reporter at kcdoyle2@asu.edu or follow @kellydoyle06 on Twitter. 

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