Swimmers Begin New Season Saturday at Inaugural CSCAA Collegiate National Open Water Championships
Owls Maintain 3.50 Team GPA During Spring Semester
B.S., Univ. of Tampa, 1988;
M.S., TCU, 1990;
Rice is an institution with an elite academic curriculum, but when it came time for the University to make a commitment to its swim program and its dynamic head coach, Seth Huston, the mathematics was pretty simple.
When looking at the work coach Huston put in and the results he achieved in just a few short years at the helm of the Owls' swim program -- such as developing Rice student-athletes into making the U.S. National team, qualifying for the United States Olympic Trials, and to do so while having a team grade point average that is annually among the highest of any Division I swim program in the nation (including women's & men's teams) -- Rice University didn't so much as blink about writing a $5.4 million check for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art on-campus Aquatics Center for Huston's Owls to call home.
The $5.4 million is a substantial amount to put behind a college swim program, particularly in the current economic climate. Rice University believes that when it comes to a program like coach Huston's (with the type of student-athletes he recruits who become Rice Owls) it is money well-spent.
In each of his eleven previous years at Rice, Huston has helped every member of the team achieve her best personal level of success. Improvement in the individual's performance has made for better team results, but that's not all. With the fantastic, picturesque and fast (or "crazy-fast" as one Owl described it) Rice Aquatics Center to train in, there is every reason to expect more of the same from Huston's teams for years and years to come.
Leading the program to the Conference USA league title in 2013, the Owls' second in the last three years, may have been some of his best coaching yet. The Blue & Gray stormed to the league crown by winning six event championships (five individual and one relay). Seven school records fell (three individual and four relays) and there were eleven NCAA provisional qualifiers. Sophomore Casey Clark marked Rice's return to the NCAA Championships before a host of Owls went on to swim at the U.S. Nationals over the summer. For his efforts Huston was named the 2013 C-USA Coach of the Year for the third time in the last four seasons,
After he led the team to a come-from-behind second place finish at the 2012 Conference USA Championships, he coached two Owls (Casey Clark and Erin Flanigan) competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Rice set a total of five new school records in 2012.
The 2011 season proved to be a dramatic breakthrough for the Rice swim program. Huston's Owls sent a buzz through the nation's collegiate swimming circles by winning the C-USA Championship. It marked Rice's first league title in women's swimming dating back to the start of the program in the early 1970s.
The most interesting, if not eye-opening, aspect of the Owls' two C-USA Championships is that the Blue & Gray won the titles despite not competing in, nor getting any points for, the three conference diving events. The second-most interesting aspect of the 2011 championship season is that Rice won only one event at the meet (the 400-IM, by then true freshman Quincy Christian). Even with only one individual champion, the Owls had so many other personal bests and high finishes across the roster that the points simply began to pile up.
The absence of diving points, or having just one individual champion, did not matter. In either case it's important to note that it was a swim team, behind the training of a true swim coach, that won the conference title. Huston's C-USA peers voted him as the 2011 Coach of the Year, the second-straight year for him to earn the honor (after he won it for the first time in 2010).
At the end of Rice's 2010-2011 school year it was a Huston-coached and recruited swimmer, senior Karen Gerken, who was named the winner of the Joyce Pounds-Hardy Award. The Pounds-Hardy Award is presented to the top female Rice student-athlete who achieves the most in academics, community service, campus involvement and her respective athletic competition. As it turns out, all the criteria for the University's Pounds-Hardy Award have long-been part of Huston's recruiting checklist.
In 2009-2010 the program moved into the beautiful new pool and the team responded. The junior tandem of Gerken and Alex O'Brien won Conference USA individual championships in the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle events, respectively. The Owls won five dual meets overall and earlier claimed the team title of the Delta State Invitational meet over five other opponents. There were nine new entries in the school record books, but swimming fast was only part of the story. In the classroom the 2010 Owls won college swimming's "Academic National Championship." According to the National Collegiate Swim Coaches' Association (NCSCAA), Huston's Owls had the highest cumulative grade point average (3.62) of any of the 347 women's and men's swim teams from the country's 238 Division I schools. The C-USA named him the 2010 Coach of the Year.
Rice swimming was the repeat national academic winner from 2009. In the pool, the Owls posted a huge road win at the Nebraska Cornhusker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. Senior Skylar Craig and sophomore Erin Mattson both broke individual school records in the backstroke and butterfly, respectively. Four Huston-coached relays set new school records to close out the competitive season.
Rice's 2008 season was sensational. Huston led the Owls to a Top 40 finish at the NCAA National Championships and a second place finish at the Conference USA meet. He coached Brittany Massengale to All-America status in her final year of eligibility, but the Owls' season didn't end with the NCAA meet. He went on to coach Massengale and fellow Owl Carlyann Miller into qualifying for the 2008 United States Olympic Trials. At the end of the 2008 school year Diane Gu was named the winner of the Joyce Pounds-Hardy Award.
The 2007 season was a solid year. Not only did Huston coach Rice to its (then) highest-ever finish at a conference championship meet (as the Owls took second at the 2007 C-USA Championships), he coached league champions for both an individual and relay event.
In 2006 his Owl swimmers participated in the U.S. Swimming's Senior Nationals and, for the first time ever, a Rice swimmer made the United States National Team and represent the country in an international meet. After coaching Massengale to set new school records in the 500, the 1,000 and 1650-freestyle, she competed for the U.S. national team at the Open Water World Championships in Italy. In no small part to her Rice head coach, Massengale also went on to swim in the U.S. Olympic Trials in two pool events and could compete in the international open water events in the future.
Huston coached both Massengale and Diane Gu, then a freshman, to qualifying for the 2006 NCAA Championships. By getting all the members of the Blue & Gray to perform at their peak, the Owls have stepped up with some solid dual meet wins in his tenure such as defeating Miami on the road in Florida, LSU on the road in Baton Rouge, and finishes ahead of Ohio State, Arkansas, Nebraska, TCU, Houston, Colorado State, Nevada and Washington State at multi-team events. The victories have certainly grabbed some attention for Rice swimming, but Huston still has his eye on the bigger picture.
The head coach and his staff have worked hard at training the individual athletes to reach their best, but Huston has worked equally hard at identifying the best student-athletes across the country and bringing them to Rice. In its annual summer wrap up of the top high school performers in the country (a list including both public and private schools), the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) listed three incoming Owl recruits among the nation's top seniors in their respective events.
As a result, winning is nothing new to a Huston-coached team. Prior to joining Rice in May of 2002, Huston spent eight years at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., where he was the head coach of both the men's and women's teams. He is a four-time Division II women's coach of the year and has won back-to-back Division II national championships in 2001 and 2002. The Truman men tied their best-ever result with a ninth-place finish in 2002.
Huston, 49, has been named the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) coach of the year four times and he was the Mid East Championships coach of the year from 1995-98. He has coached the Division II women's swimmer of the year. Truman State swimmers set eight NCAA Division II meet records during Huston's tenure, and the school produced more than 100 Division II all-Americas. While at Truman State, Huston coached 22 academic all-Americas (16 women and six men) and both teams have posted 16 consecutive semesters as CSCAA all-academic teams.
The St. Louis native earned a bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Tampa in 1988 and a master's from TCU in 1990, serving as an assistant swim coach at both schools. Before landing the head coaching job at Truman State, Huston spent four years as the head coach and program director of Katy Aquatics in Houston, where he was named age-group coach of the year in 1992. He built a program that produced three top-seven finishes at the Texas Age Group Championships, numerous state champions and a ninth-place men's finish at the 1994 Junior National Swimming Championships.
An active participant in the U.S. Swimming program, Huston is a member of the CSCAA as well as the American Swimming Coaches Association. He is an ASCA certified coach, having coached swimmers at all levels of excellence from NCAA all-Americas to Olympic Trial qualifiers and U.S. National Team members.
Huston trains and competes in masters swimming and open-water swimming. He enjoys cycling and other fitness-testing events. He and his wife Amy have been married for 25 years, and the couple have three children: Hobie, 21; Hanna, 19; and Eli, 15.
Got a question for the head coach? E-mail Seth Huston here.
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