Andy Johns, the three-time reigning Western Athletic Conference Swimming Coach of the Year, enters his 21st season as the Northern Arizona head swimming & diving coach having guided the program to three consecutive WAC Championships. Together with Diving Coach Nikki Huffman, the two coaches have turned the Lumberjacks into one of the premier programs in the West.
Throughout his illustrious tenure at the helm of the Lumberjacks, Johns has produced championship caliber teams together year in and year out in addition to developing a program that is equally exceptional in the classroom as it is in the pool. He has navigated NAU from the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference to its first all-Division I affiliation in the National Independent Conference (NIC) in 1998-99, followed by the program’s move to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) prior to the 2004-05 season.
In 18 years against exclusively Division I competition at the conference level, Johns has led NAU to four conference championships, including WAC titles each of the last three years, nine second-place finishes and four third-place efforts. Furthermore, the Lumberjacks have captured 54 individual and relay conference titles, 125 school records (a high of 11 set at the 2009 WAC meet), nine conference records and 45 NCAA qualifying marks under Johns’ tutelage.
Johns has always been a proponent of the "total" program – one that also succeeds in the classroom – and his ’Jacks continue to achieve academic greatness. Since the fall of 1996, his student-athletes have posted cumulative grade-point averages of 3.00 and higher in 38 of 40 academic semesters. The Lumberjacks are consistently among the best programs the league in placing student-athletes on the WAC All-Academic lists with 21 earning the honor last year. NAU has been recognized 13 times as an Academic All-America Team by the Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) including last year's squad which posted a 3.44 grade point average in the spring.
As NAU’s longest-tenured current head coach, Johns’ team’s success has been unrivaled and the program was rewarded with the brand new Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The ATC, which Johns played a key role in the design process, officially opened its doors in February 2016 and is NAU swimming & diving’s new home following its 32-year stay in the Wall Aquatic Center.
The opening of the ATC was just one of many highlights of the 2015-16 season which featured NAU’s third consecutive WAC Championship. The three-peat was achieved in near record fashion as Johns’ squad ripped their way through the conference competition besting runner-up New Mexico State by 319.5 points. NAU posted 807.5 points during the four-day championships and recorded the fifth largest margin of victory in WAC history. NAU claimed seven event victories, setting a new high water mark for the program since joining the WAC.
The Lumberjacks’ dominant performance earned Johns his third straight WAC Coach of the Year honor and fourth overall. Proving to be more than just a distance-oriented team, Johns saw his 200 freestyle relay team of junior Hayley Edmond, sophomores Roni Houck and Alina Staffeldt and freshman Ila Hughes set a new school record on their way to winning the event for the first time since 1997 – prior to NAU joining the WAC. Staffeldt also broke the school record in winning the 200 butterfly, while senior Kendall Brown won both the 500 and 1650 freestyles among the many highlights. As has become customary, all 21 of NAU’s scoring athletes scored points in at least two of their three individual events and the ’Jacks were the only team to place an athlete in the championship heat in every event for the second straight year.
The performance followed NAU’s successful title defense in 2014-15. Just as NAU continues to prove, the Lumberjacks are one team and depth was key as all 20 of NAU’s scoring athletes earned a scoring spot in at least one individual event. The ‘Jacks claimed two individual gold medals with junior diver Chelsea Jackson winning the 3-meter event and freshman Alina Staffeldt – NAU’s Female Newcomer of the Year – breaking the school record en route to placing first in the 100 butterfly. Staffeldt and sophomore Urte Kazakeviciute notched NCAA ‘B’ standard times as NAU finished with 666 points, 127 more than New Mexico State, to bring the hardware back to Flagstaff for the second consecutive year.
A total of 16 student-athletes combined for 39 All-WAC honors at the 2015 WAC Championships. In the classroom, three student-athletes – Jackson, Staffeldt and sophomore diver Alexa Geiger – received CSCAA Scholar All-American honors while the team received two Scholar All-America Team distinctions from CSCAA during the year.
After a near miss the year prior, Johns led the Lumberjacks to a banner year in 2013-14 as NAU clinched its first WAC Championship in school history. Despite winning just two individual gold medals - senior Jordan Burnes in the 200 breaststroke and sophomore Kendall Brown in the 1650 freestyle - the Lumberjacks turned a 19-point lead heading into the final day into a 743-642 final margin over Idaho on the final day to bring back the conference title to Flagstaff. Twenty athletes scored points for the Lumberjacks showcasing the team's full depth while Burnes broke both of her school records in the breaststroke events. Burnes, Brown and freshman Urte Kazakeviciute combined to record four NCAA 'B' standard times.
For the second consecutive year, the Lumberjacks finished the 2013-14 season in the top-25 of the CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major poll. As exceptional as they were in the pool, Johns' team was equally stellar in the classroom posted the seventh-best GPA in the nation among swimming & diving programs during the Spring 2014 semester. The Lumberjacks earned a pair of CSCAA All-American team awards during the academic year and they led all WAC winter sports with 19 All-Academic selections. In all, NAU placed 22 of its student-athletes on the conference all-academic list. Three Lumberjacks earned CSCAA Scholar All-American honors and seniors Andrea Derflinger, Emma Lowther and Stirling Smith all were recipients of the prestigious NAU Gold Axe Award. Smith was also named NAU's Female Senior Student-Athlete of the Year award which marked the second straight year that the program produced the top female student-athlete at NAU.
After initially settling into the Western Athletic Conference, Johns' Lumberjacks established themselves as title contenders recording four runner-up finishes over a six-year span capped by a narrow seven-point loss to San Jose State at the 2013 conference meet before finally hoisting the trophy in 2014. Despite falling just short of the program’s first WAC Championship, freshman Ellie Morrissey was named the WAC Freshman of the Year at the conclusion of the meet with Nikki Huffman receiving her second WAC Diving Coach of the Year award. NAU also won its first WAC medley relay title in the 400 medley relay, shattering the previous school record by nearly two seconds in the process.
Between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons, NAU totaled 11 individual titles, including five each in 2012 and 2013, 22 NCAA ‘B’ standard times, including a program-record 11 in 2012, and 24 new school records, with a high of 10 in 2013. In that span, seven student-athletes combined for 10 All-American honors with Fi Connell, Emma Lowther and Jordan Burnes each earning a pair of honors.
While the program was reaching new heights within the conference, Johns led NAU to its first dual meet victory over Arizona State as well as fellow Pac-12 foe Washington State. The Lumberjacks also produced some of the top female student-athletes at NAU as Kristy Ardavanis (2012-13) and Rachel Palmer (2011-12) received the university’s Female Athlete of the Year award. Meanwhile, Ellie Morrissey (2012-13) and Caitlin Wright (2011-12) were voted as NAU’s Female Newcomers of the Year. The ‘Jacks also reached a high-water ranking of a tie for sixth in the final CollegeSwimming.com 2013 Mid-Major Poll while tying for the sixth-best team GPA among all NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving programs in 2013, marking NAU’s second consecutive top 10 academic GPA ranking nationally. In 2012-13, a pair of Lumberjacks received distinguished academic honors as Fi Connell was named NAU’s Female Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Palmer was voted to the Capital One Academic All-District 8 Women’s At-Large First Team.
Johns led NAU to a pair of second place finishes at the WAC Championships prior to a fifth place finish in 2010. The Lumberjacks earned the runner-up title among nine teams in 2008-09 and finished second among eight teams during the 2007-08 season. At the 2009 WAC Championships, the Lumberjacks earned 43 All-WAC Awards and set 11 school records, marking the most records set at the WAC meet in the five years NAU had been a member. That number still holds as the most records ever set at a conference meet in Johns' tenure. The 43 All-WAC Awards are also the most to date.
During NAU's first three seasons as an affiliate member of the WAC, Johns helped improve the Lumberjacks' fifth-place finish in their inaugural season in 2004-05 to a pair of third-place finishes. He was named WAC Coach of the Year in NAU's rookie season and was pivotal in coaching Alexis Buckley to the 2006 NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. Buckley swam in both the 1,650 and 500 freestyle and became the first female swimmer at NAU to represent the Lumberjacks in 12 years.
Prior to joining the WAC, NAU finished second at the National Independent Conference (NIC) Championships in 2003-04 and Johns was named the NIC Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. NAU had seven individual conference champions, tying the team record for the most champions in a single conference meet. The Lumberjacks also set 10 school records, and earned two other honors in addition to Johns', as assistant coach Nikki Huffman earned her fourth Diving Coach of the Year honor and then-sophomore Blair Buder was named the Female Diver of the Year.
Johns came to NAU in 1996 from Clemson, where he trained the sprinters, including one NCAA All-American. Prior to that, he spent three years as head coach at Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State). During his tenure, his teams set 45 school records and five athletes posted their first national qualifying times.
Johns is well-respected in the swimming research community, having presented at the American College of Sports Medicine national meeting twice, first about the effects of warm-up in 1991 and tapering in 1992. Johns is published in many sports medicine journals, including the International Journal of Sports Medicine and Medicine and Science in Sport in Exercise. He was awarded a research fellowship from the Institute of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina in 1990.
As a collegian at East Carolina, Johns helped his team to the Colonial Athletic Association title in 1989. Prior to ECU, he was a junior-college All-American, earning the honor eight times in two years at Broward (Fla.) Community College.
Outside of his time as a coach, Johns has performed with the Flagstaff Light Opera Company, including the musicals Oliver and The Secret Garden, and is currently a member of The Flagstaff Master Chorale whom he sang with at Carnegie Hall in March 2012.
Johns received his bachelor's degree in physical education from ECU in 1989 and followed that with a master's in exercise physiology in 1991. Johns is married to his wife, Misha, and has two daughters, Ali and Maddie.