Andy Johns, the reigning Western Athletic Conference Swimming Coach of the Year, enters his 19th season as the Northern Arizona head swimming and diving coach. Throughout his NAU career, Johns has continued to take on new challenges and strives to take his program to the next level.
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.
NAU picked up five dual meet victories during the regular season including wins over WAC opponents Grand Canyon, Idaho, New Mexico State and Northern Colorado. For the second consecutive year, the Lumberjacks finished the 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 in which the program produced the top female student-athlete at NAU.
The 2012-13 season was almost a historical one for Johns' team as the Lumberjacks narrowly missed capturing their first WAC Championship, finishing seven points behind San Jose State for their fourth runner-up finish in six years. Still, the Lumberjacks totaled five titles at the conference meet with 10 school records, eight NCAA 'B' times and 20 top-three finishes overall. Freshman Kendall Brown claimed gold in the 1650 freestyle, while fellow freshman Ellie Morrissey broke the school record in the 100 freestyle en route to winning gold in the event. 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. Diving coach Nikki Huffman was named the WAC Diving Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the meet.
During the dual season, the Lumberjacks recorded five regular season dual wins, including the first win over Arizona State in program history. They finished the season tied for sixth in the final CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major Poll and had nine swimmers and three divers garner All-WAC honors. Senior diver Kristy Ardavanis was named NAU's Female Athlete of the Year and Morrissey was named the WAC Freshman of the Year as well as NAU's Female Newcomer of the Year after winning six total medals at the WAC Championships. Senior Fi Connell was honored as NAU's Female Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year as she was just one of the many Lumberjacks responsible for the team's high academic standing. Johns' Lumberjacks tied for the sixth best team GPA among all NCAA Division-I women's swimming & diving programs and was named to the 2013 College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) All-America Team. Connell and Morrissey as well as divers Gwen Smithberg and Chelsea Jackson earned CSCAA NCAA Division I Scholar All-American Honorable Mention honors, while 26 total athletes earned Academic All-WAC honors. Junior Rachel Palmer wrapped up the Lumberjacks' academic honors with a Capital One Academic All-District 8 Women's At-Large First Team selection.
Johns' squad reach new heights during the 2011-12 season, as his team won five individual titles and placed second overall at the WAC Championships. Junior Fi Connell and sophomore Rachel Palmer each won two individual titles and NAU won the 800 freestyle relay, its first WAC relay title in program history. The Lumberjacks combined for a program-record 11 NCAA 'B' Standard times and broke eight school records during the meet.
NAU also earned dual meet wins during the season over Washington State, Idaho, New Mexico State and Colorado State, among others, before placing second among the eight teams competing at the conference meet. Connell, Palmer, and sophomores Emma Lowther and Jordan Burnes were all named CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major All-Americans, while Palmer was named NAU's Female Athlete of the Year and freshman Caitlin Wright was named Newcomer of the Year. NAU continued to excel in the classroom as well, posting program-record GPA's during both semesters including a 3.52 mark in the spring, the 10th highest GPA among all Division-I women's swimming & diving programs.
Johns led his Lumberjack squad to a third place finish at the WAC Championships in 2010-11, with the Lumberjacks collecting 21 All-WAC awards during the four-day championship meet. NAU broke six school records and produced 41 top 16 individual finishes and five point-scoring relays. Sophomore Fi Connell repeated as the 200 backstroke champion, won silver in the 100 backstroke, and bronze in the 200 individual medley.
Connell built off her sensational freshman season in which she won gold medals in both the 100 and 200 backstroke. She became the first multiple winner for NAU at a championship meet since Emily Simon in 2004 and hit NCAA qualifying times in both events. Connell was named to the 2010 and 2011 Division I Mid-Major All-America team by www.collegeswimming.com. She was joined on the 2011 squad by Emma Lowther after the freshman took home a silver medal at the WAC meet.
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 has been a member as well as the most records ever set at a conference meet in Johns' 14 years. The 43 All-WAC Awards are also the most to date, and were four more than NAU had earned the previous year.
Johns coached an individual gold medalist as then-junior Rachael Foe earned the honor in the 200 individual medley. Two of NAU's relay teams also earned silver medals along with school records.
Along with its second-place team finish in 2007-08, NAU earned 39 All-WAC Awards, set six school records and earned two special awards. Diving Coach Nikki Huffman received co-WAC Diving Coach of the Year and senior Natalie Hughes was named the WAC Diver of the Year.
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.
Over the years, Johns has put NAU swimming and diving on the map on several levels, including the regional stage as well as producing perennial conference-title contenders when he moved the program from the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference into the all-Division I NIC in 1998-99.
In 16 years against exclusively Division I competition at the conference level, Johns has led NAU to nine second-place finishes (including three straight from 2001-04) and four third-place efforts. Success for NAU not only shows in the team standings, but also in the record book. In Johns' 18 years, NAU has earned 45 individual and relay conference titles, 121 school records (a high of 11 set at the 2009 WAC meet), nine conference records and 39 NCAA qualifying marks.
Johns has always been a proponent of the "total" program - one that also succeeds in the classroom. Since the fall of 1996, his student-athletes have posted cumulative grade-point averages of 3.00 and higher in 34 of 36 academic semesters. The Lumberjacks have consistently had the most student-athletes earn WAC All-Academic honors among the schools in the league, with 22 earning the honor last year. NAU has been recognized nine times as an Academic All-America Team by the Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) including last year's squad which posted a 3.58 grade point average in the spring.
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.