Co-Head Coach Jill Sterkel
Full Name: Jill Ann Sterkel
Jill Sterkel, a four-time U.S. Olympic star and arguably the greatest women's swimmer in the history of the University of Texas, is entering her 14th season as the women's swimming coach at her alma mater. Starting in 2000, Sterkel began serving as Texas' women's swimming co-head coach along with Mike Walker, who joined the Longhorn coaching staff in June of 2000.
In her 13 seasons, she has directed the Longhorns to 12 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, to 11 conference titles and to two runner-up conference finishes. This includes four top-three finishes at the NCAA Championships (1993, '94, '95 and 2001) as well as winning seven consecutive Big 12 Conference Championships (1999-2005). Sterkel's Longhorns also claimed four consecutive Southwest Conference crowns from 1993-96. For her efforts, Sterkel has been named the Big 12 Conference Women's Swimming Coach of the Year six times, including four times when she has shared the honor with Walker in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Last season, she guided the team to a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships along with served as head coach of the USA women’s team which collected 14 medals at the World University Games.
In 2004, Texas posted another top-10 finish at the national meet, placing eighth behind yet another solid season from junior Sarah Wanezek. After earning a combined seven NCAA All-America honors as a freshman and sophomore, Wanezek earned four NCAA All-America honors and three NCAA All-America Honorable-Mention accolades at the NCAA Championships in 2004.
She displayed her versatility by scoring at the national meet in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, the 100-yard butterfly, the 200-and 400-yard freestyle relays, as well as the 200- and 400-yard medley relays.
When Walker joined the staff in 2000-01, the co-head coach combination has proven that they are an outstanding team. In their first year together Texas posted a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships, which marked UT's highest standing at the NCAA's since 1995 when Texas also finished third. Senior Colleen Lane earned two individual NCAA titles in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, becoming the first Longhorn swimmer to capture an individual crown since Whitney Hedgepeth (200-yard backstrroke) in 1994. Texas also won the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays at the 2001 national meet and set NCAA records in both races along the way.
Extending her coaching experience to international team competition, Sterkel was named the women's head coach for the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, Korea. She also became the first female assistant coach of Team USA at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan and has served as assistant coach for Team USA at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.
At the Pan Am competition, Sterkel guided former Longhorn and 19-time All-American Tammie Spatz-Stone (1994-97) to two gold medals and two silver medals. These four medals made Spatz-Stone the most decorated American female swimmer at the 1999 Pan Am Games.
Many other Sterkel proteges have enjoyed tremendous success in both national and international competition. Three-time NCAA Champion and 21-time All-American Whitney Hedgepeth, who swam for the Longhorns from 1991-94, won a gold and silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Former Longhorns B.J. Bedford and Erin Phenix were named to the 2000 U.S. Olympic Swim Team and became Sterkel's fifth and sixth Olympians she has coached at Texas. Bedford, a four-year letterwinner in 1990-94, claimed Olympic gold as a member of the winning 400-meter medley relay team and Phenix also captured a gold medal as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay team.
Sterkel has received the highest honors from the University of Texas for her contributions, both as a coach and as an athlete. In April of 2000, she became one of 10 inaugural inductees in the Texas Women's Athletics Hall of Honor. The Hall of Honor initial induction ceremony was conducted in celebration on the 25th anniversary of UT Women's Athletics. In 1998, Sterkel was presented with a university-wide Texas Exes Distinguished Alumni Award, etching her name deeper into the rich tradition of Longhorn athletics.
In 1996, Sterkel was part of another great historic moment when she guided Texas to its 14th and final Southwest Conference title in the league's final year of competition. With that victory, Texas became the only team to claim every league crown. Sterkel was part of 13 of those14 victories either as a competitor or as a coach. The sole exception was in 1992 when she was making her head coaching debut at Indiana University.
One of the all-time great sports figures in swimming, Sterkel's name is recognized in swimming circles around the world, and her competitive drive is emulated by those who dream of reaching the standards she has set. That recognition extended to a greater level on July 1, 1998, when she was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame. As one of only 87 former high school athletes in the hall at the time of her induction, Sterkel joined an elite group of athletic legends, including Johnny Bench, Larry Bird, Chris Evert, Jackie Robinson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and former UT Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell.
In the past 23 years, 22 of which she spent at Texas as either an athlete or coach, Sterkel has maintained the same competitive drive that helped her become the first female swimmer to qualify for four Olympiads. The 1984 University of Texas graduate competes with the same desire as she did when she was in the pool, only now she does it from the sidelines.
Sterkel's credentials upon her arrival at the University of Texas were impressive. After beginning competition a the Senior National level in 1975, Sterkel made her Olympic debut at the age of 15 at the 1976 Games in Montreal, Canada, and captured the hearts of Americans by claiming her first gold as a member of the U.S. 400-meter freestyle relay team.
Her second gold came eight years later in the same event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, four years after the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics that were held in Moscow. The three-time Olympic team captain (1980, 1984 and 88) capped off her incredible career by winning two bronze medals (in the 50-meter freestyle and the 400-meter freestyle relay) at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. By that time she was 27 years old. In between Olympics, Sterkel managed to put Longhorn swimming on the national map.
She led the Longhorns to AIAW National Championships titles in 1981 and '82, winning five individual titles each year. From 1980-83, she claimed 16 individual national titles, including two in 1983 at the Longhorns' NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships debut, leading UT to a third-place finish. In 1980-81, Sterkel became Texas' first Broderick Cup Award winner (now known as the Honda Broderick Cup) as she was recognized as the nation's College Female Athlete of the Year. Twice, Sterkel also earned the Broderick Award at the National Women's Swimmer of the Year (1980 and 1981).
In 1992, Sterkel was named to the Southwest Conference All-Decade (1980) Women's Swimming Team.
Sterkel currently serves on numerous U.S. Swimming national committees. Previously, she has served on the Olympic International Operations Committee, the Olympic Selection Committee, the NCAA Rules Committee, and the National Team Evaluation Committee.