Andy Johns, the four-time reigning Western Athletic Conference Swimming Coach of the Year, enters his 22nd season as the Northern Arizona head swimming & diving coach having guided the program to four 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 consistently produced championship caliber teams in addition to developing a program that is equally exceptional in the classroom as it is in the pool. In his first 21 years, the 'Jacks have won a total of five conference championships (Pacific Collegiate Swimming, 1998; Western Athletic, 2014-17). Johns' teams have been a model of consistency as well with nine additional runner-up finishes and just three conference finishes outside the top three.
In the pool, the Lumberjacks have captured 61 individual and relay conference titles, 126 school records (a high of 11 set at the 2009 WAC meet), nine conference records and 49 NCAA qualifying marks under Johns' tutelage. In the classroom, his student-athletes have posted cumulative grade-point averages of 3.00 and higher in 40 of 42 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 15 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.
Along with building a total program that produces student-athletes to the very definition, Johns' tenure has included several major moments for NAU swimming & diving. Johns 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.
Then in February 2016, the doors to the Aquatic and Tennis Complex opened. As NAU's longest-tenured current head coach, Johns' team's success was rewarded with the ATC, which Johns played a key role in the design process, marking NAU's new home following 32 years in the Wall Aquatic Center.
This past season was one filled with adversity, but Johns' leadership never wavered as the 2016-17 campaign ended just as the previous three did – with a WAC Championship. A rigorous dual meet schedule that featured four top 40 teams (Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State and Nevada) prepared the 'Jacks for their toughest conference championship challenge yet. Needing to fend off four teams who all finished less than 110 points behind NAU, the Lumberjacks rode seven gold medals to their fourth straight title.
The seven event victories tied the program's highest mark, equaling the 2015-16 team's total, since joining the WAC. Juniors Alina Staffeldt and Kimmy Richter each won two individual golds, along with swimming on NAU's gold medal 800 freestyle relay team. Senior Alexa Geiger and sophomore Tatiana Kurach – the WAC Diver of the Year and NCAA Championships qualifier – totaled the final two golds in the springboard diving events. In all, the Lumberjacks posted 615.5 points and Johns was named the WAC Co-Swimming Coach of the Year.
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.
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. 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 historic efforts followed NAU's first two WAC Championships in program history after a series of near-misses with four runner-up finishes over a six-year span. Johns led the Lumberjacks to a banner year in 2013-14 as NAU clinched its first-ever WAC Championship and followed it up with a successful title defense during the 2014-15 season. In contrast to their third and fourth consecutive championships to follow, the Lumberjacks conquered the WAC despite winning just two individual gold medals. At the 2014 championships, senior Jordan Burnes won the 200 breaststroke and sophomore Kendall Brown in the 1650 freestyle while junior diver Chelsea Jackson and freshman Alina Staffeldt – NAU's Female Newcomer of the Year – won gold on 3-meter and in the 100 butterfly respectively in 2015.
Leading by just 19 points heading into the final day in 2014, the Lumberjacks powered their way to a 743-642 final margin over Idaho on the final day to bring their first WAC title to Flagstaff. A year later, NAU finished with 666 points, 127 more than New Mexico State, to once again bring the hardware back from San Antonio. While the gold medals were elusive, NAU's full team depth was evident as 20 athletes scored points for the Lumberjacks in back-to-back years.
Johns' first WAC Championship team ended the 2013-14 academic year with a flurry of scholastic accolades. NAU posted the seventh-best GPA in the nation during the Spring 2014 semester while seniors Andrea Derflinger, Emma Lowther and Stirling Smith 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 following Fi Connell the year prior.
Before their current run of championships, Johns' Lumberjacks endured heartbreak with a narrow seven-point loss to San Jose State at the 2013 WAC meet. 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. The 11 school records still remains the most ever set at a conference meet during Johns' tenure, while the 43 All-WAC honors were topped by the 2015-16 team's 53 awards.
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.