Three months after he moved from NC State to Indiana University to join the professional group in Bloomington, 2016 Olympian Ryan Held is following former IU associate head sprint coach Coley Stickels to the University of Alabama, where he was named head coach in late April following Dennis Pursley‘s retirement.
“I decided to follow Coley to Alabama because I had great success with him in the short amount of time I was with him,” Held told SwimSwam. “It was extremely hard to decide to leave IU because they have a fantastic pro culture and family there. I was instantly welcomed in that group at IU.”
After signing his first professional suit deal with Arena in March, Held picked up a win in the 100 free at the Richmond Pro Swim Series stop in April, going an in-season best time of 48.70 (well under his previous in-season PR of 49.24). He did not compete in at the Pro Swim Series in Bloomington last weekend and instead appeared on social media to be in New York.
The decorated IU team includes post-grads Blake Pieroni, Cody Miller, Zane Grothe and Annie Lazor, as well as recent graduates Lilly King, Zach Apple, and Vini Lanza. While we haven’t historically seen much of a “pro group,” in the same way IU has one, from Alabama, it appears the program has one forming. Held, 23, expects that sprinters Zane Waddell, Laurent Bams and Ali Khalafalla will be his main training partners.
The multi-time SEC champion Waddell, who represents South Africa internationally, is heading into his senior season at Alabama, and Bams – who represents the Netherlands – wrapped up his NCAA career this year. Khalafalla, who represents Egypt, will also be making the move from IU as he graduated this month. Former Alabama senior associate head coach Jonty Skinner is headed to Indiana to replace Stickels, which could entail additional swaps in athlete personnel between the two programs.
Last summer at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, Held placed eighth in the 100 freestyle, just outside of qualifying for any major international long course meets for the summers of 2018 and 2019. However, he did end up on the roster for the 2018 Short Course Worlds team, where he led off the men’s 4×100 free relay in the prelims, breaking an American record in the 100 free. Held’s swim earned him a spot in six relay finals, including the 4×100 free (gold), mixed 4×50 free (gold), 4×50 free (gold), 4×200 free (4th), 4×50 medley (silver), and 4×100 medley (gold).