Arizona State Swimming History
The storied history of Arizona State's men's and women's swimming and diving programs includes 172 All-Americans, 55 national collegiate champions and 51 Olympians.
Men's Swimming & Diving
In 1963, Walt Schlueter and Dick Smith were presented with the challenge of coaching ASU's first men's varsity swimming and diving team. Schlueter had coached the U.S. National swimming team at the 1950 Pan-American Games. Smith, had just been named the U.S. diving coach for the '64 Olympics. It wouldn't be long before the ASU men's program was as strong as their credentials.
Two years before he'd win gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Bernie Wrightson became the Sun Devils' first NCAA champion, winning the 3-meter springboard in 1966 as ASU earned what would be its best national finish until 1982: 13th. In 1968, Keith Russell matched Wrightson with an NCAA 3-meter title of his own as ASU finished 16th in the nation.
The Sun Devils wouldn't crack the national top-20 again until two years into Ron Johnson's head coaching campaign, when - along with third-year diving coach Ward O'Connell - he saw the Sun Devils place 20th in 1977. Helping ASU get there was Blake Johnson, who with a third-place finish in the 400 IM as a freshman, became the first ASU men's swimmer to earn All-America acclaim.
Before the 1978-79 season, ASU joined what arguably had been (and continues to be) the toughest conference in the nation for swimming and diving and proved strong, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 and 14th in the nation.
Ever-improving, by 1982 ASU not only had its best national finish of all time - sixth - it also had its first NCAA champion in Andy Astbury, who claimed the NCAA 500 free title two years before he went on to anchor Great Britain to a bronze medal in the 800 free relay at the '84 Olympics. In 1983, Mike Orn added a second NCAA title to ASU's mantel, this time in the 200 free. That season (7th), and three of the next four, ASU placed among the nation's top-10.
After 18 years at the helm of ASU men's swimming, Johnson stepped aside and was replaced by Dr. Ernie Maglischo before the 1993-94 season. Among the highlights of the Maglischo era was a second-place finish at the 1995 Pac-10 Championships -- the highest ever by ASU - and a ninth-place NCAA finish in 1996.
The hero of the '96 season was Venezuelan great Francisco Sanchez, who captured ASU's first national title in 13 years with a victory in the 50 free at the NCAA Championships. The same year, Sanchez won three conference titles and joined Orn as the only Sun Devils to win Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year honors.
In 1999, the current era of Sun Devil swimming and diving began when Michael Chasson became the fourth head coach in the history of ASU men's swimming.
Women's Swimming & Diving
Twenty-four years before the current home of Arizona State swimming and diving was constructed and named in her honor, Mona Plummer arrived on the ASU campus in 1957.
Over the next 22 years, Plummer built one of the premier women's swimming programs in the nation, attracting some of the world's best athletes and winning eight AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) team titles from 1967-1978.
Under the tutelage of Plummer, 45 ASU women earned sole or shared possession of AIAW event titles, including relays. Perhaps the first queen of ASU swimming was Kendis Moore (Drake), who in 1968 -- the same year she finished fourth in the 100m backstroke at the Olympic Games -- became the first collegiate swimmer to win three national event titles, placing first in the 50 back, 100 back and 100 fly.
Another U.S. Olympian to help ASU in its early years was Jan Henne (Hawkins). Henne, who at the '68 Olympics captured gold in the 100m free and 400m free relay, plus silver in the 200m free and bronze in the 200m IM, was a three-event national champion for ASU in its 1970 AIAW title campaign -- 100 breast, 200 free, 400 free relay.
In 1976, Melissa Belote, the world record holder in the 200m back from 1972-74 and the American record holder from 1972-77, called upon the skill that saw her win three gold medals at the '72 Olympics and won three national collegiate event titles. ASU managed only a fifth-place AIAW finish in '76, but would rebound in 1977 and 1978 with its seventh and eighth national championships.
Not to be forgotten in this period are the efforts of ASU divers under coach Dick Smith, including 1968 Olympic platform bronze medalist Ann Peterson (Scheer) - who actually earned '68 AIAW titles in both the 3-meter springboard and the now extinct 100 medley relay -- and Mary "Patsy" Willard (Heckel), who captured bronze in the springboard at the 1964 Olympics.
Following the 1978-79 season, Plummer stepped down. Diving coach Ward O'Connell, who had been on staff for both the men and women since the 1974-75 season, remained and was joined by Plummer's replacement Bill Rose.
The Rose era, which included ASU's only WCAA (Western Collegiate Athletic Association) title in 1979, was highlighted by Canadian Olympians Gail Amundrud and Cheryl Gibson, who had began their collegiate careers under Plummer. Amundrud earned eight national titles in her four year ASU career, while Gibson - a silver medalist in the 400 IM at the '76 Olympics -- tallied six collegiate crowns.
The 1981-82 season, marked not only the first season for the ASU women in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), but also the first season under head coach Bob Gillett. The Sun Devils finished seventh in the nation that season - Gibson's last - but against challenging NCAA competition they dropped to 21st by 1985.
Thus entered Tim Hill, who grabbed the reins and led the Sun Devils to four consecutive national top-10 finishes. In 1994, one of ASU's finest seasons in recent history, Hill and O'Connell were honored as Pac-10 Coaches of the Year as ASU finished second in the conference and 13th in the nation.
Leading the way that season was Polish swimmer Beata Kaszuba, who claimed ASU's first individual collegiate title since 1980 with a win in the 100 breast at NCAAs. The following season, Kaszuba repeated in the 100 breast and added a 200 breast title, both in NCAA record times.
In 1999, Michael Chasson became the fifth head coach in ASU women's swimming history.
The Current Era
In 1999, Michael Chasson became the first coach in ASU history to officially head both the men's and women's swimming programs. One year after replacing Ward O'Connell, Mark Bradshaw remained to coach the Sun Devil divers. In both cases, their impact was immediate.
Prior to Bradshaw's arrival, the ASU men hadn't produced a diving All-American since Dan Plant in 1983, while Katrina Pfeuffer's 1997 efforts had garnered the only All-America acclaim for ASU women divers since Janae Lautenschlager in 1991.
Since, in four years under Bradshaw, ASU diving has produced three All- Americans. Among them was Marc Briggs, who in 2000 became men's diving's first conference champion and first All-American in 17 years. After another All-America season in 2001, that included besting an 18-year Plant record in the 3-meter six-dive format, Briggs finished his collegiate career with ASU records in five of six diving disciplines.
Under Chasson, the men's swimming program also made a national resurgence. In 2000, ASU welcomed two-time 200 IM Olympic medalist Attila Czene to its roster and flourished, placing among the nation's top-10 for only the third time in nine years. In his only season as a Sun Devil, Czene was member to three school record setting relay teams and added two individual ASU records. Tying the world record in the short-course 200m IM (1:42.72 converted), Czene became only the sixth NCAA champion in ASU men's swimming and diving history.
The women's swimming program, which hadn't finished in the top-25 nationally in two years, also received a welcomed boost from Chasson with a 23rd-place finish at the end of his first season with the team. The following two years netted back-to-back 21st-place finishes, and after accumulating All-America honors in four events last year, the Sun Devils appear ready to earn their first top-20 finish since 1995 in 2002.