Rick Walker

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Rick Walker
Rick Walker is a world-renowned open water swimming coach and the decorated coach at Southern Illinois University (SIU). He has coached the USA Swimming national open water swim team at several world championship events and conducted numerous open water swimming clinics throughout the United States and around the world. He also organizes the innovative Saluki Mile and the Saluki 5K Open Water Swim.

He coached both Mazen Aziz of Egypt and Csaba Gercsak of Hungary to the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

He is a member of the UANA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee along with Denny Ryther, Jose Ismael Gonzales, Executive Committee Liaison from Guatamala, Jorge Delgado, Secretary from Ecuador, and Chantal Van Keekin Frederik from Suriname, Tomas Haces German from Cuba, Gladys Mejia Garcia from El Salvador, Pierre Lafontaine from Canada and Ron Jacks from Canada.

Walker is also the Open Water Swimming Representative of the Central Zone for USA Swimming.

Rick Walker on Pack Swimming in the Open Water

At Southern Illinois University

In 2005-06, Walker became just the second person in SIU history to coach both the women's and men's swimming and diving teams. Walker spent 12 years as the men's head coach and five years as a men's and women's assistant before becoming the head coach for both the men and women. During the 2007-08 season, Walker recorded his 100th career win as the Saluki swimming and diving head coach.

Walker served as an assistant under SIU head coach Doug Ingram from 1987-1992, the only previous time the men's and women's teams were under the leadership of one coach.

During his 12 years as the men's head coach, Walker's leadership continued the success of the storied SIU swimming and diving program, as well as adding new accomplishments to its history.

Last season, Walker coached the teams to a combined 9-6 record including wins against Miami (Ohio) on the men's side and Vanderbilt on the women's side.

The women's team placed third at the 2010 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship for the second consecutive season. In addition to MVC Swimmer of the Year Kirsten Groome and Diver of the Year Emily Gable, SIU fielded conference champions in seven individual events and one relay, while setting numerous school, conference, and pool records along the way. Seven members of the women's team were named All-MVC First Team for their performance at the meet, and six earned Honorable Mention honors.

Walker went on to coach Groome in the NCAA Championships, the first Saluki to advance to the national stage in 20 years.

The men's team finished fifth at its own conference championships in its first season as part of the Mid-American Conference. SIU crowned champions in two individual events and one record-breaking relay team, as three Salukis were named to the All-MAC first team.

Interested in his athlete's academic successes and not just their exploits in the pool, Walker's 2010 men's team had a GPA of 3.10, ranking the team 17th in the country in the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Academic All-American Team. The women's team ranked 28th with a 3.20 GPA.

Walker has seen his teams earn CSCAA Academic All-American honors a total of 16 times during his 23 years at Southern.

In addition, four members of the SIU women's team earned MVC Scholar-Athlete Team honors for the 2009-10 season, and four members of the men's team were awarded Academic All-MAC honors.

In 2009, Walker was awarded with the honorable distinction of Americas Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, as he was recognized for his efforts with USA Swimming national teams and his work as an advocate for open water swimming at the collegiate level.

In the fall of 2010, Walker was honored with the Adolph Kiefer Safety Commendation award at the annual United States Aquatic Sports convention for heroically saving the life of an Australian swimmer at the 2009 World Swimming Championships in Rome, Italy.

Walker was named MVC Coach of the Year in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2002 as well as Illinois Swimming Association Coach of the Year following the 1998 season. He was named Eastern Independent Championship Coach of the Year in 1993 & 1995 and the National Independent Championship Coach of the Year in 1996 & 1997. Recently, Walker was named MVC Invitational Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2005. Since the 1994-95 season, Walker's athletes have captured 110 of the 215 individual titles (57%) including 10 of the 15 400 Medley relay titles.

The Kankakee, Illinois native has coached four Olympians, including recent two-time Olympian Chrysanthos Papachrysanthou (Cyprus 2000 & 2004), four World Championship swimmers, two Olympic Trials competitors and one Olympic Sports Festival contestant.

Papachrysanthou and former Saluki Herman Louw, the MVC Swimmer of the Year in 1999 and 2000, chose to be trained for their countries' (Cyprus and South Africa) 2004 Olympic Trials by Walker during the 2003-04 season, while attending graduate school at SIU.

For the first time in school history, SIU produced its first male Academic All-American under Walker in 2003, when Jake Sinclair was named to the 2003 Verizon Academic All-American At-Large First Team with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Sinclair was also named to the 2003 Verizon Academic All-District V At-Large First Team.

Before serving as head coach, Walker served as an SIU assistant from 1987-92, coaching former women's head coach Jeff Goelz and his former assistant Gustavo Leal. Goelz earned multiple All-American honors under Walker's tutelage. During that span, the Salukis also advanced to the NCAA Championships twice, finishing 18th and 27th.

Prior to coaching at SIU, Walker coached at the YMCA in Joliet, Illinois, for the 1984-85 season, Texas A&M and the Aggie Swim club during the 1985-86 season, and the Dad's Club YMCA of Houston, Texas, during the 1986-87 season.

Walker is more than just a successful coach. He had a remarkable career as a swimmer at two of the nation's top swimming programs before he began his coaching career.

Walker graduated from Texas A&M University in 1984 with a degree in recreation and parks. At Texas A&M, he swam for an Aggies team that finished 26th and 31st at the NCAA Championships during his junior and senior seasons.

During his two years in College Station, Texas, he set school records in the 500, 1000 and 1650 free and the 400 IM, qualifying for the NCAA Championships. His 1000 free record still stands to this day.

Prior to Texas A&M, Walker swam at National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) power Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Fla., where he set NJCAA records in the 500, 1000 and 1650 free and the 4x100 and 4x200 free relays.

He was a seven-time All-American at Indian River and is in the NJCAA Hall of Fame as well as his alma mater of Indian River Community College and Eastridge (Ill.) High School.

His swimming honors do not stop there. Walker competed at the 1980 Olympic Trials and qualified for the 1984 Olympic Trials, but retired just prior to the event. He was a silver medalist at the Olympic Sports Festival in 1979, participated in the 1978 USA Olympic Training Camp and held a top 50 world ranking in the 1500 meter freestyle in 1981.

In addition to his swimming duties, Walker serves as a prominent figure on the international level. In 1996, Walker was appointed as head U.S.A. Open Water National Team coach for two four-year terms and served three years of a third term when current restructuring plans went into effect.

As USA National coach, he headed up all National Team functions, as well as made decisions on selection process, location, and dates for the National Team. Walker selected all staff that attend any USA Swimming international team events, gave approval for all athletes to compete internationally, and determined planning decisions for national team trips.

He led USA Swimming to a championship at the 1998 FINA World Swimming Championship in Australia, as well as fourth place finishes in 2001 and 2003.

Walker has served on the National Team staff for 13 World Championships and six Pan Pacific Games. His coaching expertise has also been called on at the World Cup in Toronto and at the Olympic Festival.

As USA National Team head coach and a spokesman for Saluki swimming, Walker has trained numerous national champions, national team members and Olympians in both the pool as well as long distance swimming.

Walker served a seven-year term on the NCAA Swimming and Diving Committee, and took the lead in the process to place open water swimming in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, a dream that was realized with the announcement in 2005.

One of Walker's favorite responsibilities as a coach of the USA Swimming National Team are the Goodwill Clinics done all over the world, which has allowed him to work with the best athletes and coaches around the globe, as well as recruit athletes on an international level.

In the summer of 2005, Walker coached the U.S. National Open Water Swim Team to a fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Montreal, Quebec. The U.S. team tallied 72 points in the event, finishing one point out of trophy contention.

For the first time since 1991, a member of the U.S. team earned a medal in a men's event at a world championship. Chip Peterson of Pine Knoll Shores, N.C., picked up the gold medal in the 10K and silver in the 5K. Margy Keefe picked up the team's third medal as she took the silver in the 5K.

For their efforts at the World Championship, Walker and his coaching staff were awarded the Glen S. Hummer Award from USA Swimming. The award was given at the USA Swimming House of Delegates meeting in Greensboro, N.C. This was the second time Walker earned this award.

Walker continues to coach the USA National Open Water team. During the summer of 2007 he led them to the World Championships in Naples, Italy and coached them in 2008 at the Worlds in Spain. He was also nominated for World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year in 2009.

Walker lives in Carbondale with his wife Eileen, son Kyle, and daughter Kelsie.

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