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Schuyler Bailar joins Harvard as the first openly transgender collegiate swimmer

Schuyler Bailar will be joining the Harvard men’s swim team this fall, becoming the first openly transgender swimmer in NCAA history.

Bailar was first recruited by Harvard women’s swimming head coach, Stephanie Wriede Morawski, as a breaststroker.

After graduating high school in 2014, Bailar decided to take a gap year to undergo the transition from female to male. "When I met Schuyler he was not openly transgender at that time," Morawski told Yahoo Sports. "He took a gap year between high school and college to gain a fuller understanding of himself and was subsequently very open and honest with me about the transitioning."

A transformationt tuesday post from Schuyler Bailar's Instagram account. 
A transformationt tuesday post from Schuyler Bailar's Instagram account.

After Bailar’s transition, he had to face the reality that he might never be a record breaker on the men’s team, as he had the potential to be on the women’s team. However, finding himself was the ultimate achievement.

The Harvard men’s swim team welcomed Bailar as a positive addition.

Harvard men’s swimming and diving coach Kevin Tyrrell has no doubt that Bailar will contribute in numerous ways for the team this fall.

"There are two main qualities that I look for in any athlete: somebody who is passionate about getting a Harvard education, and second having that same attitude about swimming or diving, and wanting to challenge themselves," Tyrrell said. If Bailar didn’t have these qualities, Tyrrell said he would not have chosen him for the team. "He wants to challenge himself, that’s a great starting point."

Bailar isn’t just diving into this pool blindly; he has spent the majority of his life swimming at a top level. In the 15-18-age group, Bailar held the group record in the girl’s 400m medley relay in 2013, a competition that included World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky.

“As a female, Schuyler was very accomplished," Tyrrell said. "He is right in the ballpark [on the men's team], but it’s going to be a challenge. He is a very accomplished athlete and that can transfer to being a great swimmer."

Schuyler posted some inspiration for himself, and others on Instagram. 
Schuyler posted some inspiration for himself, and others on Instagram.

Bailar’s openness about his transformation can be seen not only on social media, but also his appearance at 'Prefrosh' weekend at Harvard, where all the freshman stay for the weekend and meet one another. During that weekend he met with both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. Tyrrel explained that the men’s team is very close with the women’s team. This integration between the two teams will offer Bailar an even bigger family-support group.

“Schuyler has a very positive attitude on life. Emotionally, very upbeat, and that makes us all better,” Tyrrel said.

While this optimism didn’t come without struggle, Bailar is affecting people all around him positively.

"This transition has him thinking in ways most 17-18 year-olds don’t," Tyrrel said.

The Harvard swimming and diving season starts Oct. 1, with their first meet officially starting in November.