Squash coach’s wife admitted early
By Manisha Apte
Published on Wednesday, January 28, 2009
On Dec. 10, 401 students celebrated in triumph as they read the long-awaited congratulatory message informing them that they would join Dartmouth's Class of 2013. But, for one student in particular, an arduous journey to get to that point more than justified her exuberant jumps for joy and pure, giddy excitement.
After graduating high school more than four years ago, 22-year-old Valaria Wiens, wife of assistant squash coach Hansi Wiens, was accepted as a member of the Class of 2013, and will have the opportunity to play for the women's varsity squash team at the College.
Wiens will enter as a freshman and compete on the team, which is coached by John Powers and assisted by both her husband and Ken Cucuel.
Originally from Russia, Wiens finished her final years of high school in Germany, where she first began playing squash. Even with only six years of playing experience, Wiens is expected to be the star of next year's team, and will likely help build on the success of this year's team, which has a record of 8-4 (0-3 Ivy), Wiens said
"She trains twice a day, and she trains very hard," he said. "When she wants to do something she not only does it, but she does it well."
For Wiens -- who as a child was competitive in both diving and high jump in Russia -- playing squash was not always an effortless endeavor.
At age 16, upon entering squash tournaments, Wiens found herself struggling as she was relatively new to the sport.
"At that age, people aren't very nice, and I would get teased a lot for not playing well," she said. "So that was what really motivated me to work hard and get better."
But bad sportsmanship was not the only thing Wiens has had to stomach since her introduction to the sport -- she also spent close to one month in prison.
Upon arriving in the United States in 2007, Wiens was granted a 90-day period to stay in the country, under a visa waiver program that allows citizens of certain countries to enter the United States. Remaining in the country longer than 90 days would mean risking deportation.
A problem with a poorly written I-94 form led to Wiens' arrest at the U.S. border on Oct. 12, 2007.
"I misread the final date before which I had to leave," Wiens said. "It read October 3rd, but I thought it said the 13th, so when I left on the 12th, I technically overstayed my visit by nine days."
Wiens was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for violating the terms of her visit. Wiens said she was told that she would be held for just three days, but was then held for 28 days, The Dartmouth reported in 2007.
While in prison, Wiens sought to plan for the possibility of being deported. That outcome would also have barred her from returning to the United States for 10 years. Wiens particularly considered the fate of her husband, who had just begun working for Dartmouth and had said he hoped to stay.
Wiens' deportation order was eventually vacated after a 28 day effort led by members of the Dartmouth community.
"At the time this happened, there was just so much support from the community, and there was a lawyer here who helped us to get her out," coach Wiens said.
Wiens' travel restrictions are now fully lifted.
After her five-year hiatus from school, Wiens said she is now ready to continue her education.
"Once I graduated from high school, I immediately went to Spain, so I never really got to study," she said. "But a year ago there came a point when I just really wanted to start again, and especially after seeing the whole education system in Russia, I now feel so lucky to have the opportunity to receive an Ivy League education."
Wiens applied in the first full admissions cycle since Dartmouth announced that it would consider applications from international students on a need-blind basis, a factor that played highly into her decision to apply for the Class of 2013, she said.
At 22, Wiens will be among the oldest members of the team, but has already forged a strong bond with this year's squad, and has also met some of the incoming members.
"My aim is to win the championship next year, and for the first time for Dartmouth," she said.
And as for coach Wiens, he expects next year's team dynamic to stay consistent.
"Well, with this relationship it will definitely be an awkward situation, but the whole team knows her and some have even played with her, so we will figure something out," he said.
Hansi Wiens is currently in his second year as assistant coach at Dartmouth. Before coming to Hanover, Wiens coached and managed the Balearic Islands club team in Spain for three years. As a player, he was a nine-time German Close champion and was ranked in the top 10 internationally, representing his country in team competition 146 times.