CARBONDALE — Rick Walker, who announced his retirement last year after 32 years and 16 conference titles as SIU's head swimming and diving coach, has been selected to receive a lifetime achievement award by the executive board of the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association (CSCAA).
Walker earned 13 coach of the year honors from four different leagues while leading the Salukis. His success went beyond the pool, too. In the classroom, nine swimmers earned academic All-America honors. The Saluki men's and women's teams have been named CSCAA Scholar All-Americans every semester since 2011. He is a pioneer in the sport of open water swimming. His work helped expand the Olympic Games to include open water as an event and was also instrumental in the establishment of the CSCAA's own National Collegiate Open Water Championship.
SIU's men's team won five straight MVC titles from 1994-99 under Walker, the longest streak in league history. His most recent Valley championship came in 2016, when he led the women's team past Missouri State by 0.5 points.
Before joining SIU in 1987, Walker was a seven-time All-American at Indian River Community College. He set five NJCAA records and moved on to Texas A&M, where he set school records in the 500-yard, 1,000, 1,650 freestyle and 400 individual medley.
"I have had some amazing examples of coaches throughout my career, but Rick is a huge reason that I myself am coaching today," Southwestern University assistant coach Sarah James said in a news release. "Rick not only molds great swimmers, but he teaches every single one of them to be great people and wonderful teammates."
Walker became the head coach of the men's team in 1992 and added women's head coach responsibilities in 2005. He led 237 athletes to individual or relay conference titles in 26 seasons. Eight of his swimmers went on to compete in the Olympic Games, and 209 earned all-conference honors.
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