NCAA Champion and recent University of Alabama graduate Robert Howard will join veteran coach Jonty Skinner – who was named associate head sprint coach at Indiana University this month – in Bloomington after the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships in August, he told SwimSwam Tuesday.
“It was a hard decision to leave Tuscaloosa, but the chemistry Jonty Skinner and I have built over the past 4 years is not something I want to leave one year out from Trials,” Howard said. “It was especially hard considering the improvements to Alabama’s pool in the fall, but the pro environment in Indiana is a great opportunity for me. Alabama will forever be in my heart, but I have to see this goal out and I think this move will help put me in the best position to succeed. Roll Tide!”
Howard added that he already had plans in Tuscaloosa for this summer, which is why he will wait until after Nationals to make the move.
The decorated IU pro group includes Blake Pieroni, Cody Miller, Zane Grothe and Annie Lazor, as well as recent graduates Lilly King, Zach Apple, and Vini Lanza, among others. The group is notably losing some sprinters, however, as Olympians Ryan Held and Ali Khalafalla, as well as multi-time Worlds medalist Margo Geer, are following former Indiana sprint coach Coley Stickels to Alabama as he was named head coach last month.
The Alabama native Howard had a career season last school year, taking home SEC titles in both the 50 and 100 free in February. At the 2019 NCAA Championships, he finished third in the 50 free and fifth in the 100, then anchored his team’s first-place 200 medley relay in 18.22. At Nationals last summer, Howard finished eighth in the 50 free, going a best time of 22.17 in prelims, and 11th in a PR of 48.67.