What has now become known as Longhorn Aquatics began in the fall of 1935, when Tex Robertson arrived in Austin and informed the University of Texas that he would be their swimming coach. The position did not pay anything since the position did not exist. Undeterred, Tex recruited star swimmers from around the country and convinced UT to let him coach for free. Needing more swimmers, Tex started a swim team at Deep Eddy Pool and Barton Springs. His motto was “If you can float, you can join Texas Aquatics.” The youngsters competed at the YMCA and Deep Eddy as well at meets around Texas. Jane Dillard was one of Texas Aquatics' early stars. She set the American record in the 100 breaststroke and qualified for the canceled 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The team took a break during WWII, but resumed to be a powerhouse in the late '40s. Austin native, Eddy Gilbert won the 1948 AAU National Championship in the 200 freestyle and earned a place on the 1948 Olympic team and was on the 800 free relay that won the gold medal in Helsinki, Finland. When Tex retired as coach in 1951 he recruited Wally Pryor, one of his star swimmers and an all-American water polo player, to take over the club. One of his star divers, Hank Chapman, took over as UT coach and coached Skippy Browning to the 1952 3-meter Olympic gold.
In 1953, Texas Aquatics and Austin-Texas Aquatic Club merged under the name Austin Aquatic Club. The first coaches were Bill Crenshaw, Wally Pryor, and Marc Yancey. Because these outstanding former Texas swimmers and divers were volunteer coaches and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department co-sponsored the club by lending its pools for practices and meets, all memberships were free; swimmers only had to pay for meet expenses. In addition to the head coaches and head assistant coaches, many other University swimmers and divers donated their time to coach. They all recognized the importance of mental discipline and team spirit as well as improving individual swim technique. In 1954, Bill Crenshaw stepped down as head coach and handed the reins to Wally Pryor. Not only was Pryor the head swimming coach, he was also a production manager at KTBC-TV in Austin, TAGS president, president of the South Texas AWAU, and member of the National AAU Men’s Swimming Committee. He was also the founder of the longest running meet in Texas - the Texas Open, which is still hosted in mid-summer by Longhorn Aquatics.
In 1953, the Austin Aquatic Club Parents organization was formed and served in many capacities, including funding of trips, serving as chaperons, arranging publicity and providing workers to the swim meets - all of which were important to the enhancement of the swim program.
The City of Austin’s Deep Eddy swimming pool was used for swim workouts and meets, including the South Texas AAU Junior Championships in July of 1953. This meet was attended by teams from across the state and in 1956 was replaced by the Texas Open AAU Swimming and Diving Championships, which were held at Northwest Parks and Pool. This meet was sponsored by AAC and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and continued until its last meet in 1976. During the 20-year period, it was one of the most highly regarded Texas summer time meets for age-group swimmers.
For over 20 years the AAC consistently ranked as one of the finest AAU clubs in the state. It produced many state champion swimmers and divers, with many of its members continuing their swimming in college. AAC also produced from its age-group ranks college swimming coaches, including Pat Patterson (The University of Arkansas, Texas A&M and The University of Texas) and Richard Quick (The University of Texas and Stanford University).
In 1973, Wally Pryor stepped down after 20 years as head coach in favor of Pat Patterson. After two years, Patterson was followed by Keith Bell.
The Austin Aquatic Club was active in promoting competitive swimming through 1976, at which time the Longhorn Aquatics Club was formed with the ability to have a paid coach and use the new indoor pool at the University of Texas, the Texas Swim Center. The creation of the new swim club brought to an end the Austin Aquatic Club and likewise the conclusion of Wally Pryor's contribution of more than 20 years of voluntary coaching to Austin swimmers.
Coaching Staff 1953-1976:
Head Swim Coaches
- Bill Crenshaw
- Wally Pryor
- Pat Patterson
- Keith Bell
Head Assistant Coach
- Marc Yancey
- Bob Blodgett
- Nell Bennett
- Charles Eichenbaum
- Johnny Griffith
- Jan Johnson
- Robert Morgan
- Pat Patterson
- Wally Pryor
- Ann Randolph
- Dan Rogers
- Carol Rulfs
- Phil Scott
- Tommy Smith
- Dotson Smith
- Sam Sparks
- Jamee Stewart
- Kathy Troiano
- Chuck Worrell
- Tommy Woodmansee
- Bob Clotworthy
- Margaret Firestein
The new Longhorn Aquatics program offered “Age-Group Competitive Training Programs in Diving, Swimming and Synchronized Swimming. In all program areas our goals are the same - to provide an enriching competitive experience for youngsters, and to provide excellence in coaching and training.” Longhorn Aquatics was established by the University of Texas's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in June of 1977 under the name of The Longhorn Age-Group Swimming and Diving Club. In November of 1977, the name of Longhorn Aquatics was adopted to reflect the multi-program nature of the club. It was a self-supporting auxiliary under the operational jurisdiction of the Texas Olympic Swimming Center. The TOSC director was administratively responsible for the program, while the head coach maintained daily programmatic responsibilities. The club moved into the TOSC under head coach Ray Woods. In the summer of 1978, Paul Bergen was hired as head coach of the women’s varsity team and also as head coach of Longhorn Aquatics. However, Bergen needed to finish his coaching commitments in Nashville before moving to Austin. He sent his assistant coach, Randy Ernst to head up the program until he arrived September 1, 1978. Bergen took over as head senior coach and Ernst began as head age-group swimming coach.
When Bergen resigned in 1981, Ernst took the reins again as head coach of Longhorn Aquatics. He eventually exited in 1984 when fellow Tennessean and previous men’s varsity assistant coach, Kris Kubik, took over as head coach. Kubik then ended his term as head coach in 1984 when he resumed his position with Eddie Reese as his assistant coach with the UT men’s varsity team.
Because Longhorn Aquatics was under the Women’s Athletic department, the club coaches changed as the varsity staff changed. Steve Klepfer headed up Longhorn Aquatics from 1984-1991. He assumed the position of the program manager and Jack Roach was named head swimming coach until he moved to the varsity women’s team as assistant coach with Mark Schubert. In 1992, Longhorn Aquatics underwent yet another name change to Texas Aquatics. This came from Women’s Athletics Director Donna Lopiano in reaction to an NCAA rule.
A few years later, Texas Aquatics (along with the Texas Swim Center) moved from under the UT Women’s Athletic Department to a self-supporting auxiliary unit under the Vice President of University Operations. This change was necessary to comply with NCAA policies that kept collegiate teams separate from club teams.
Olympian Whitney Hedgepeth replaced Jack Roach as head coach from 1998-2001, when he took the women’s varsity assistant coach position. During Hedgepeth’s tenure, she acted not only as head age-group coach but also as club manager. Coach Randy Reese was hired in 2001 and insisted on a name change to Longhorn Aquatics as he took the reins. Reese produced multiple TAGS, Nationals, and Olympic Trials qualifiers until 2008 when he left to return to his home state of Florida.
Doug Rusk was hired in 2009 and was replaced in 2011 by his assistant coach and Texas Swimming alum Mike Laitala.
In addition to the exceptional age-group and professional swimmers, the Longhorn Aquatics Masters swimmers have also proven to be a solid competitive team within the US Masters Swimming organization. Not only have they put up numerous world and national records, current head coach and Olympian Whitney Hedgepeth was named USMS Coach of the Year in 2013.
While the number of TAGS qualifiers, nationals and junior nationals qualifiers, and national champions is too great to count, Longhorn Aquatics has always remained at the top of the team standings. In their 80-plus years of serving the Austin and UT communities they have produced 39 Olympians, 61 Olympic medals, 30 world champions, and more than 50 national champions.
A few among them:
- Brendan Hanson - six-time Olympic medalist and world record holder (breaststroke)
- Aaron Peirsol - seven-time Olympic medalist, world champion and record holder (backstroke)
- Ian Crocker - five-time Olympic medalist and world record holder (fly and free)
- Leigh Ann Fetter - Olympian and first woman under 22 seconds in the 50 free
- Jill Sterkel - four-time Olympian (free)
- Whitney Hedgepeth - three-time Olympic medalist (backstroke and free)
- Betsy Mitchell - two-time Olympian and world champion and record holder (backstroke and free)
- Neil Walker - four-time Olympic medalist and world record holder (IM, backstroke, breaststroke)
- Garrett Weber-Gale - Olympic medalist and American record holder (free)
When Texas Aquatics/Austin Aquatic Club moved into the Texas Swim Center, the divers formed Longhorn Diving Club in the fall of 1976, headed by Mike Brown and Janet Gabriel (Brown). The first members were high school divers who had previously been part of the Austin Aquatics Club diving team, coached by Bob Clotworthy. The first half of the year, the age-group and senior divers were coached in Gregory Gym pool until the Texas Olympic Swimming Center opened in February of 1977. Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the Longhorn Diving Club hosted the 1977 AAU Indoor National Championships in April, 1977. Most notable at that nationals was a Longhorn Diving Club high school diver, Erin Beiter, placed in the top six at Nationals, was named to the US National team and a month later won a bronze medal in the 3-meter event at the USA International Meet (Can-Am-Mex). After that nationals, the Longhorn Diving Club attracted a lot of high level divers and needed to split into two different teams - the Age Group team coached by Janet Gabriel and the senior team coached by Mike Brown. Notable members of the age-group team were World Age Group Champion Sherry Wigginton and Age Group National Champion Jason Rhode, who went on to win two NCAA Championship titles for Texas. Additionally, three members of the Age Group team went on to compete in the 1984 Olympics: Marianne Weinas of Sweden, Carolyn Roscoe of Great Britain, and Juha Ovaskainen of Finland.
Senior members of the Longhorn Diving Club that either went to the Olympics or made the 1980 Olympic teams were:
- Cynthia Potter (USA)
- Brian Bungum (USA)
- Mark Virts (USA)
- Matt Scoggin (USA)
- Niki Stajkovic (Austria)
- Anita Rossing (Sweden)
- Li Kongzheng (China)
- Scott Cranham (Canada)
- Kenny Armstrong (Canada)
- Lindsey Fraser (Great Britain)
- Keita Kaneto (Japan)
- Yuki Motobuchi (Japan)
- Elke Heinrichs (Germany)
Other Longhorn Diving Club members who competed at either the World Championships, FINA World Cup, World University Games, or the Pan American Games were:
- Denise Christensen (USA - Pan Am Gold 1979)
- Dan Watson (USA)
- Ellen McGrath (USA)
- and Becky Binney (USA).
Janet Gabriel also served as the president of Texas Age Group Diving and did a large amount to develop the sport of diving in Texas by directing and holding many clinics and camps for all of the age-group teams in Texas. Gabriel coached the Longhorn Diving Club Age Group team until 1987. She was followed by Dr. Brian Bungum, Kenny Armstrong, Li Kongzheng, Jim Gray and Matt Scoggin. Anita Rossing was an assistant coach to all six of them. Brandon Garden took over in 2000 and was followed by George Purdue in 2002. Olympian Gabriel Chereches headed Longhorn Aquatics Diving from 2010 until 2015. Currently leading the team are Dwight Dumais and Jim Zagaria as co-head coaches.
More recent nationally accomplished divers include:
- Troy Dumais (Olympian)
- Justin Dumais (Olympian)
- Dwight Dumais
- Drew Livingston
- Jessica Livingston
- Kathryn Kelly
- Mary Yarrison
- John Eisler
- Mark Naftanel
- Samantha Bromberg
- Maren Taylor
- Mark Anderson
- Cory Bowersox
- Will Chandler
- Meghan Houston
- Matt Cooper
- John Wilcox
- Harold Hyde
- Emma Ivory-Ganja
- Shelby Cullinan
- Sherry Wigginton
- Robin Carter
- Sean Briscombe
- Jim Gray
- Jason Rhodes
- Brandon Gardner
- Kristen Kane
The Longhorn Diving Club/Longhorn Aquatics has hosted a number of national/international diving meets:
- 1977 & 1979 AAU Indoor National Diving Championships
- 1978 - 1994 All American Diving Invitational and Austin Cup
- 1984 Age Group National Diving Championships
- 1987 American Cup Diving Championships
- 1993 US Diving Indoor National Diving Championships
- 1993 & 2013 USA Diving Senior National Championships
As of 2015, the rosters exceeded 600 swimmers, divers, and water polo athletes from ages 6 to 80.