Coach Walker builds a legacy

By Gus Bode

‘ After 27 years at SIU, swimming and diving coach Rick alker has gotten used to breaking records.

But the longtime coach said his best memories aren’t just results, even though he hates losing more than anyone.


‘Some of the best memories come from getting a call from a kid who didn’t get it while they were here and calling me up and say, ‘I got this job which I didn’t think I could ever get and if you weren’t as stubborn with me when I was there I still wouldn’t get it,” Walker said. ‘Those are the things that really stand out in my mind.’

Last season, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams combined for six broken records in their last meet, but both ended up getting beat out in their respective conferences.

Six broken records is a far cry from the beginning of Walker’s career.’ In 1992, his team went 2-11 in dual meets.

But the coach kept on working.


And for his hard work, he was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2002 as well as Illinois Swimming Association Coach of the Year after the 1998 season.

Since 1994, his teams have done nothing but win.’ Of the possible 215 MVC individual titles during that time, 110 have been won by his swimmers. Walker’s team has also won 57 percent of relay titles, which includes a dominant 10 of 15 in the 400 Medley relay titles.

‘He’s a great open-water coach,’ former distance free swimmer Karin Mullendore said.’ ‘He’s one of the best in the country.’

Recognition is still coming for Walker.

He will be a delegate at the FINA World Congress, which is the world governing body of all aquatics. He is also a delegate for USA Swimming and will be an official at the open-water World Championships in Rome.

‘On a non-Olympic year, this is like the Olympics,’ Walker said. ‘It’s the biggest meet in the world for aquatics.’

Walker is the only official representing the USA at the meet.

Mullendore said that Walker is laid back when he needs to be, but when the swimmers need it, he brings the energy.

It is his way of coaching that makes him so effective, former assistant coach Tiffany Gowens said.

‘You’ll know when he’s mad at you, but he’s motivating and he really cares about the team,’ she said. ‘He’s helped me with my career a lot.’