JMU Swimming and Diving coach Samantha Smith retires from coaching
“JMU is a community of spirited people who challenge you to grow every day,” Smith said. “Because of this great community, the decision to retire from coaching is difficult and certainly filled with the full spectrum of emotions. I look back at JMU with a strong sense of pride for the athletes I was fortunate enough to recruit and coach, along with excitement for the future of JMU Swimming and Diving.”
Smith added, “I had great roles models and mentors through my swimming and coaching career. I would like to thank Jeff Bourne, Shelia Moorman, Jennifer Phillips and the entire JMU athletic department for supporting both my development as a coach and the growth of this program.”
“Our athletic department has been blessed to have Samantha Smith serve as our Head Women’s Swimming Coach,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “As a JMU graduate, Sam brought a level of professionalism, passion and coaching talent that has allowed the female student-athletes in her program to grow and flourish. Athletically, she coached them to be champions, academically she helped them achieve excellence and in life she has shown them how to be leaders and role models. We will miss her deeply, but we are excited and happy for her in this next chapter of her life. We will strive to build on the foundation that Sam established by continuing to make meaningful impacts in the lives of our female student-athletes.”
During her time with the program, Smith has raised the level of JMU swimming and diving to great heights, culminating with the team’s sixth Colonial Athletic Association championship in 2011-12. The Dukes dominated the competition at the 2012 CAA Championships, beating second-place by 146 points. Her team improved on its finish at the CAA Championships every season between 2006-07 and 2011-12. They went from ninth in 2007 to winning the title in 2012.
She was named the 2011-12 CAA Swimming Coach of the Year after guiding the team to a 13-2 dual meet record before win the conference title. In her eight seasons with Madison, Smith went 63-30 in dual meets and finished in the top three at the CAA Championships four times. The team has broken every individual and relay school record under her tutelage, including eight individual and four relay events during the 2012-13 season.
Individuals have also reached great heights under Smith’s leadership. Freestyle swimmer Eva Hannesdottir(2010-12) is the reigning Icelandic national champion in the 100 and 200-meter freestyle events. She also represented Iceland at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, swimming in the 400-meter medley relay. Catalina Mendieta (2010-12) represented JMU at the National Championships for Columbia while rising senior Kelsey Holmgaard (Roanoke, Va./George Mason) competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012.
Rising junior Sin Hye Won (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) became the first JMU swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Championship, competing in both breaststroke events in 2013 while diver Kimberly Helfrich (2009-13) was the first swimming and diving athlete to reach the NCAAs, competing at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
“The Swimming and Diving Family is strong,” Smith said. “Dane Pedersen and Becky Benson have been instrumental in the great climb our program made over the past six years. I leave behind a strong, dedicated and selfless group of women to carry on the team and traditions. I will always be a JMU alum and I am proud of the service I was able to give to my alma mater. The experience was extraordinary. Thank you to everyone who contributed.”
Jennifer Phillips, JMU Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Senior Women’s Administrator added, “I am appreciative of all Sam has accomplished as the Head Coach of the Swimming and Diving Program. She has led this program with such poise and dignity that served as an excellent role model for young women. Under her direction, our student-athletes competed at the highest level and excelled in the classroom. I wish her all the best as she moves forward to the next adventure in her life.”
A national search for Smith’s replacement will begin immediately.