The Agile Aussie: Sophomore Jesse Goodyear brings talent, passion to GVSU Swimming & Diving

Courtesy / Jesse Goodyear

Courtesy / Jesse Goodyear

Zack Goodrow, Staff Reporter

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Jesse Goodyear, a sophomore at Grand Valley State University, has been on a tear this season for the swimming & diving team. Last month, he was named GLIAC player of the week for his performance against Milwaukee college. He posted times of 9:33.76 in the 1000 meter and 4:44.78 in the 500 meter, winning both events. 

Goodyear isn’t a normal student at GVSU. He comes from Sydney, Australia. He grew up about an hour away from Sydney Harbor, and enjoyed spending time swimming and surfing at the beach with his family.

He went to a very small high school, graduating with 60 students. Craig Stevens, his coach in high school, was a former Olympian for Australia in 2000 and 2004, and he learned many of his techniques from him.

But then Goodyear tore his meniscus early in high school doing a breaststroke kick. Even through the setbacks and pain of his injury, Goodyear’s hard work and coaching led him to place in Nationals, where he became very friendly with the swimming officials.  

“I’m a very talkative person, I used to talk to the officials a lot,” Goodyear said. “One day they said to me, ‘If you don’t talk for this entire meet, I’ll give you a bag of candy.’ I was like, I can do that. I finished my race and placed third in all of Australia for my age. I forgot about the candy.” 

Goodyear wanted to continue swimming but his options at home were thin. Universities in Australia only featured independent club teams, not a school swimming and diving club. During his senior year, a friend who swims for Northern Michigan got in touch with him to bring his talents to Michigan, and his search for colleges started.

He researched colleges in Michigan, along with their swimming teams. Continually through his search, one school kept appearing: Grand Valley State. He noticed the teams achievements and talent of the players and coaching staff. He soon got in touch with head coach of the GVSU team, Andy Boyce, via Skype. 

“After talking with coach Andy for five minutes, it felt like I already knew him for years,” Goodyear said. “He made me feel incredibly comfortable coming here and made me feel like a part of the team before I was even on it.”

He had found his school, but still had to go through the process of coming to Michigan. Goodyear said he could never have come to America or even be the swimmer he is without his parents.

His mom and dad were very supportive of him and his three older brothers. They would wake up around 4:30 in the morning, six days a week, just to take their children swimming. Goodyear recalled one night during his senior year when he was in the process of applying to GVSU. He remembered waking up at three in the morning and heard his mom on the phone with the NCAA just because of the time differences. Without them, Goodyear might not be at GVSU at all.  

Now that he is here, Goodyear enjoys almost everything about GVSU. He said he appreciates the chance to take general education classes to go along with his accounting degree requirements. In Australia, students apply to specific degrees and only take classes designed for them. In America, he’s enjoyed the opportunity to expand his knowledge in other fields. Goodyear also treasures the campus’s beauty and Michigan’s weather. 

“The campus is one in a million,” Goodyear said. “This is honestly nicer than anything at home. Fall is ridiculous; we don’t really have a fall at home. Watching the leaves change colors is such a surreal experience. I show my parents and friends at home pictures and they tell me they’re coming over to visit.” 

 Goodyear had to adjust to the swimming and diving team at Grand Valley. While he knew his teammates were supportive, he didn’t know what to expect during meets. 

“The first meet here, everyone on the sideline was clapping for me,” Goodyear said. “I was like, ‘What are you guys doing? Reserve your energy, sit down. You guys have to race soon.’ After the race I got on the sideline and did the same thing. When they’re winning their race, you feel like you’re winning too when you cheer. You’re in it.”

Since his freshman year, Goodyear has been learning and adapting to college in America and swimming here. He and his good friend, junior Moritz Bartels, have been pushing each other and adjusting together. Bartels is from Germany and was at GVSU when Goodyear first came. Bartels, coach Boyce and all of his teammates have made him comfortable here.

“It’s so much better here to swim than back home,” Goodyear said. “Having a whole team behind you is like something you’ve never felt before. When I’m at home I’m swimming for myself, that’s all I needed. Knowing that I have 60 people backing me and pushing me is a surreal feeling.” 

At meets, Goodyear is now one of the most vocal swimmers. He’s always cheering on his teammates from the sideline and giving them words of encouragement. He’s always cheerful and energetic, and it translates to the rest of his teammates. 

“At conference last year, I was in my last event of the meet: the 1500 (meter),” Goodyear said. “We started talking and I had to adjust my suit. I squatted and the thigh ripped. I heard it and was like theres no way that happened. I covered myself with my hand and ran around looking for a new suit. A friend came up to me with an extra one soon. It normally takes me about ten minutes to get it on properly but I did it in five seconds. I had five minutes before the race and I was running around the pool trying to find suits to put on. I got one that fit luckily.” 

Goodyear is currently studying for an accounting degree. After school, Goodyear plans to go back to Australia to get his masters degree. In the meantime, Goodyear will continue to improve in the pool. 

“I want to get to Nationals again,” Goodyear said. “It was a great experience. I want to get under 15:15. I’m normally a 15:32, and I want to get there at some point.”

Goodyear has made new friends here that he knows will always be there for him. He knows he made the right decision in coming to Allendale, and loves everything about GVSU and the people. 

“Never in a million years would I have ever come here,” Goodyear said. “Three years ago, I was too scared and thought this was out of my league. Now that I’m here though, I couldn’t think of any other life.”