In 2013 head coach Joshua Willman celebrated his 20th season at the helm of the University of New Hampshire’s Swimming & Diving program. The 2012-2013 season was arguably one of Willman’s best to date as he earned his 15th Coach of the Year Award and brought the program its seventh conference championship title. The Wildcats won the 2013 America East title with a record setting 858 points breaking the conference record held by the 1998 Wildcat squad. Junior Jenni Roberts (Springvale, Maine) was selected America East Swimmer of the Year and Roberts along with Sophomore Katie Mann (Prince George, British Columbia) went on to qualify and compete at the 2013 Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. It was the fourth consecutive year Willman has been named Coach of the Year for the America East Conference.
A 1984 graduate of the University of Miami (FL), Willman began his coaching career just after graduation at the YMCA and U.S.A. Swimming level. Willman entered the collegiate coaching arena as the Assistant Coach for New Hampshire in 1991 taking over the program the following season when he earned his first coaching honor as the Men’s Coach of the Year. Since then, New Hampshire’s success has not gone unnoticed, as Willman has become the America East Conference’s most highly decorated coach. He has been selected America East Coach of the Year 12 times in the past 20 years (1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) and ECAC Coach of the Year three times (2003, 2011 and 2013).
New Hampshire swimmers are the most highly honored student-athletes in the America East, winning 33 major conference awards including 21 Swimmers of the Year (16 America East and 5 ECAC), six America East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, four Rookie of the Year and two Senior High Point Coaches awards. During Willman’s tenure, 342 swimmers have been crowned America East Champions and 103 have been named ECAC Champions. In total, Wildcat swimmers have broken over 242 school records, 90 America East records and 23 ECAC records.
A number of milestones in particular have marked UNH’s steady rise to the top. In 1995, Willman produced UNH’s first-ever NCAA Division I qualifier, Denise Leckenby. She later went on to earn All-America honors in 1996 placing eighth in the 200-freestyle as well as 11th in the 100-freestyle earning UNH enough points to finish 27th in the nation at the 1996 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Building on the successes of the mid-90’s, the Wildcats then won their first America East Title in 1997-1998 and then repeated as conference champions in 1998-1999.
Beginning the new era in 2000, New Hampshire native and breaststroke standout Kristen Zeimetz was a finalist at the 2000 U.S. Open and participated in the 2000 U.S. Olympic team trials. In 2003 the Wildcats won their first ECAC Championship team title, earning Willman his first of three ECAC Coach of the Year honors, and continued to place near the top at the America East Championships once again, as they won back-to-back America East titles in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. New Hampshire continued to qualify swimmers for the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, as senior Shannon Daly and sophomore Kary Goodman both placed in the top 25 in the nation in the 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly respectively during the 2006 campaign. UNH completed the 2006 season ranked eighth nationally in the mid-major Division I Polls. The Wildcats won the ECAC Championships in 2011 for the second time in school history, claiming the title by a 1.5 point margin, earning a first-place finish on the final event, taking the 400-yard freestyle relay in record setting fashion.
Most recently, in 2012-13, Willman led the team to a 6-0 start and finished the season with a record of 7-2.
As the national polls were released by CollegeSwimming.com (Feb. 21), the Wildcats earned the 19th spot in the rankings. Among the top-five schools were (1) Florida, (2) California, (3) Southern California, (4) Texas and (5) Stanford. In the 19th spot, the squad ranked ahead of Princeton (20), Missouri State (21), Columbia (22), UMBC (23), North Carolina (24) and Virginia Tech (25). It was the first time UNH was ranked in the Top 20 in the Division I Poll.
In the ensuing ECAC Championships, the Wildcats posted a second-place finish with 403 points, despite not competing in relays. Willman earned his third ECAC Coach of the Year honors as Roberts and Katie Mann were honored as Co-Swimmers of the Meet.
New Hampshire’s swimmers are consistently swimming at the elite level representing not only the United States but more recently internationally with Wildcat swimmers competing Senior Nationals and the Olympic Trials for their home countries including Canada, South Africa and Denmark.
New Hampshire is consistently an Academic All-America team and swimmers have earned NCAA Academic All-American honors, post-graduate scholarship awards and ranked as high as sixth nationally for grade point average. Willman is a certified ASCA Level IV coach and has been a recipient of the ASCA Coaching Excellence Award.