Illustration by Matt Boblet.

When it comes to raising money, the UC Santa Cruz swimming and diving team has one special donor who always keeps the team afloat: The UCSC swimming and diving alumni.

On Saturday, the UCSC swimming and diving team reunited with its former athletes at the East Field House Pool in an alumni meet. The alumni came to show support for their former team, both emotionally and financially. Many of these alumni traveled from places far and wide to show their Banana Slug love.

“We got people coming from Washington, D.C. and Seattle,” said Eugene Lee, a swimmer from the class of 2008. “I personally come back twice a year [outside of the alumni swim] to hang out with the team.”

The UCSC swimming and diving team enjoyed the presence of their alumni. As a meet, it was less about competition and more about the enjoyment each swimmer and diver gets from the sport.

“It is so fun to see them come back,” swim team co-captain Emi Yamaguchi said. “It’s cool to hear their stories, and it’s so sweet they’re giving back to us.”

Lee, who is now a public accountant at Grant Thornton in San Jose, said he misses the team atmosphere and the outdoor exercise he got with the team. Lee gave a donation to the team in addition to coming out for the alumni meet.

“I wouldn’t give this money to the school,” Lee said. “I gave this money to the swim team because that’s what’s important to me.”

The money generated by the alumni can be a staggering amount. Swim team coach Kim Munsch is very appreciative of the money he now gets from his alumni.

“We got around $10,000 from our alumni,” Munsch said. “They give what they can.”

UCSC NCAA sports teams traditionally have trouble raising funds. Just transporting all 75 swimmers and divers to a competition is a logistical challenge for Munsch. In addition, Munsch noted how having no Division III schools around UCSC forces Munsch to bring in Division I programs his team has trouble competing with. Munsch mentioned the number of scholarships for some teams as particularly galling. He doesn’t expect his team to compete with the likes of No. 1 ranked Stanford or No. 20, San Jose State.

“They have 13 full rides,” Munsch said. “I’m being pragmatic about our team’s performance.”

Munsch noted that since UCSC swimming and diving is an all walk-on team, it transforms the team’s culture. A walk-on is a student who joins the team without having been actively recruited. He feels the pressure isn’t as much about winning as much as it is beating your best performance.

“Everyone is here working with the team because they want to do this,” Munsch said. “They’re willing to put in 20 hours a week, and those who don’t wish to put in the hours don’t last on this team.”

Munsch understands swimming to be a race against yourself. The swimmer, he said, is not interested in competing against anyone but the clock.

“We’ve had people finish in sixth and be totally stoked about it because of their time,” Munsch said. “By contrast, the person in first may be bummed out because it was just an average time.”

Co-captain Emi Yamaguchi said she currently is not trying to get a faster time. Yamaguchi is interested in the tests she faces this weekend versus San Jose State on Friday at the East Pool, and at the Mills College Invite on Saturday in Oakland. Yamaguchi will compete in the 200-meter butterfly stroke race.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Yamaguchi said. “I just want to see where I am at.”

Yamaguchi noted that the alumni do give the team more than monetary support. For her, the alumni provide a team support other students can’t give.

“I look forward to giving back.”