Courtesy: Marist Athletics
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – As the longest-tenured coach at Marist, swimming & diving’s head coach Larry VanWagner has left his mark on the community. Now in his 43rd season with the program, VanWagner has taken the team from a club level, to a perennial Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contender. Most recently, VanWagner earned his 400th career dual victory at the H2ounds Invitational on Dec. 1, 2018.
“When he actually got the 400th win, he gave a big speech about how it was not really his accomplishment but ours as a team. And it wasn’t just him, it was all the coaches involved, it was more of a collective effort,” stated Ross Lippe, a senior captain for the Red Foxes. “To credit us and our class and all the classes that came before us, it was really special to hear his perspective on that.”
During his time at Marist, VanWagner has proven himself to be one of the most successful coaches to step foot on campus. VanWagner has been with the men from the start and took over head coaching duties for the women in 2003. Between the men and women, VanWagner has won a combined 36 conference championships including 30 in the MAAC.
VanWagner started his tenure at Marist in 1976, back when the swim team was a club team. Over the next three seasons, VanWagner led the team through the transition from being a club, to Division III, to a Division I team. It would take some time, but swimming and diving would win its first conference championship in 1990, with the men taking home the crown at the Metropolitan Conference Championship.
In 1995, Marist announced its transition into the MAAC. The men and women’s swimming and diving teams were the first teams to compete at a MAAC Championship, with the men winning the school’s first one in 1996. From then on, Marist was a regular contender for the conference championship. VanWagner has been named MAAC Coach of the Year eight times during his tenure. Everything would come full circle in 2014 with the women winning Marist’s 100th MAAC championship.
Marist swimming and diving has been one of the top mid-major teams over the last several years. Under VanWagner’s tutelage, the women have gone 123-51 in dual meets while the men have finished 277-143. The two teams have gone a combined 232-31 against MAAC opponents. VanWagner has proved time and time again his ability to bring out the best from his athletes.
“I always find it interesting and challenging to get student-athletes to realize their potential and to do that they have to make changes,” stated VanWagner. The one thing I am always looking at is technique and that is the one thing I’m always trying to change. And because I know in doing so, they can reach their full potential.”
VanWagner’s athletes have garnered success and recognition on a national level as well. Manuel Garcia, Kate Conard and Michelle Fountain were named CoSIDA Academic All-District with the latter two being named All-Americans. Garcia and Greta Leberfinger swam in the Olympic Trial Qualifiers for Mexico (2016) and the United States (2012).
With all the changes to the Marist Athletic Department over the last several decades, one thing has remained constant: Larry VanWagner and the success of the Marist swimming and diving team.