Emma Reaney & Kelly Ryan reflect on their NCAA All American campaigns.
Kate Kovenock was named assistant coach for the Notre Dame women's swimming and diving team in the spring of 2009 after serving as an assistant coach for the men's and women's teams at Division III powerhouse Kenyon College. The 2013-14 season will mark her fifth with the Irish program.
"Kate's hire was a true search and a true hire," said head coach Brian Barnes. "That's not common in the coaching community, but it was very clear to me that Kate was the right person for our program and for the University. She is very bright and has great instincts. When we met I knew immediately that she used her time at Kenyon well. She has an understanding of the level of effort it takes to compete at a championship level and the pace required to be competitive from year-to-year."
"When Coach Barnes offered me the position, I accepted without hesitation," said Kovenock. "My excitement at the prospect of joining Barnes' staff and to coach at Notre Dame was - and continues to be - impossible to hide. Barnes and I believe in the potential that exists at Notre Dame. It is an honor to share the responsibility to continue to raise the national profile of the Notre Dame women's swimming and diving program."
During her time with the Irish Kovenock has been a key asset to a program that has continued it's successful history under Barnes.
The 2012-13 season was an historic one for the Irish as the squad finished a school-best 16th at the NCAA Championship meet with 55 points, which is the second most in program history. In addition, sophomore Emma Reaney earned All-America honors in both breaststroke events, while Reaney and four of her teammates collected eight honorable mention All-America scrolls. Reaney later went on to star at the U.S. Open on her way to being selected to the 2013-14 US Swimming National Team.
2011-12 was no different as two student-athletes earned All-America honors and eight earned a spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Highlighting the season were sophomore Kelly Ryan and the first-year star Reaney. Ryan was named an All-American in the 200 back and swam three events at the Olympic Trials, while Reaney earned honorable mention All-America accolades in three events (100 and 200 breast, 200 IM) and competed in four events at the Olympic Trials, including a semifinal appearance in the 200 IM. Reaney also earned a spot in Sports Illustrated's Faces In The Crowd for the Jan. 16th edition.
During her first two years with Notre Dame, Kovenock also helped tutor Irish standouts Samantha Maxwell, Amy Wren Miller and Kim Holden. Maxwell, the 2010 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Swimmer after having a hand in four titles (100 and 200 breast, 200 and 400 medley relay), earned All-America honors in the 100 breast and honorable mention All-America accolades in the 200 breast as a sophomore in 2009 and honorable mention All-America honors in the 100 breast as a junior in 2010. She also competed at the NCAAs in 2011. Miller received All-America accolades as a junior in 2010 in the 50 free, while Holden competed in three events at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
During Kovenock's first season in 2010, the Irish won their 15th and final BIG EAST title in a row to extend the longest streak in league history regardless of sport. After 2010, the Irish claimed second three consecutive years before moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2013-14 season.
Away from competitive action, Kovenock has helped plan and organize with Barnes three Coaches vs. Cancer Fighting Irish Swim Clinics that have raised over $25,000 (not sure about this year yet) for RiverBend Cancer Services and the American Cancer Society.
During Kovenock's four years at Kenyon, the women's program won three NCAA Championships (2007, 2008, 2009), the men's program won four NCAA Champions (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), and Kenyon swimmers earned over 240 All-American awards in NCAA competition.
"(While at Kenyon) I learned a tremendous amount about life and work behind the scenes of an established championship team," said Kovenock. "Regardless of what a team or an athlete or a coach has accomplished in past years, you have to be willing to redefine the standard. We're trying to maximize potential in all that we do. It comes down to consistently recognizing and capitalizing on the opportunities that are in front of us everyday. My passion and belief in Notre Dame is tied directly to that philosophy. The opportunities that exist at the University of Notre Dame are unparalleled. If we recruit student-athletes with the right talent, belief, and desire, the Notre Dame swimming and diving program can do something special."
On deck at Kenyon, Kovenock worked under legendary head coach Jim Steen and was given specific training responsibilities with the men's and women's sprint groups. Over the course of four years, a Kenyon swimmer won the 50 freestyle NCAA title twice (2007, 2009) and the NCAA record, which still stands today, was broken once (2009).
In addition to her coaching duties, Kovenock coordinated recruiting for the women's program. After back-to-back NCAA runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2006, the swimmers recruited during Kovenock's tenure sparked a resurgence for the women's program, playing key roles in Kenyon's three titles from 2007-09. As a sprinter at Connecticut College (Div. III), Kovenock captured an individual NCAA Championship in the 50 free (2004) and earned 11 individual NCAA All-American awards (2002 - 2005). At the conference level, she went undefeated in the 50 and 100 freestyle events over her four years.
Kovenock's collegiate career was marked by academic accolades as well. Graduating with a B.A. in honors philosophy, Kovenock was an Academic All-American during each of her four years and was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All- American Team during both her junior and senior years.