West Virginia University has announced the hiring of Karla Helder as the program’s new head diving coach. She takes over for Michael Grapner, who spent the last 10 seasons leading the Mountaineer divers.
Helder spent the last 2 seasons as the head diving coach at San Jose State University, where she led every diver to personal best times on both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards. During her time there, she also served as the assistant diving coach and developmental coach for the Santa Clara Diving Club.
Prior to that, she spent 12 seasons as the diving coach at Buffalo. That included coaching 2 divers to the NCAA Championships, the first two in program history, and coached the only diver in school history to qualify for the US Olympic Trials.
“As I started the process of hiring a new coach to lead our diving program, Karla’s knowledge, experience and dedication to the sport of diving, as well as her holistic approach to coaching student-athletes, are what impressed me the most about her in our conversations,” West Virginia head coach Vic Riggs said. “Not only do I believe Karla will challenge our divers to make them the best they can be on the boards, but her approach to mentoring her student-athletes is going to help prepare them for all aspects of their future endeavors. I’m excited to see how our diving program grows under Karla’s tutelage.”
A two-time NCAA Division II National Diving Coach of the Year, Helder also spent nine seasons at the University of California at Davis, where she coached four national champions and 36 All-Americans. She was named the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference (PCSC) Men’s Diving Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2003, while also earning the conference’s 2001 Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award.
Helder joins the program on an upswing after last season’s first year at the brand new Aquatic Center at Mylan Park, which includes a full diving tower.
The school qualified redshirt sophomore Jacob Cardinal Tremblay and sophomore Nick Cover for the NCAA Championships, which were the school’s first divers to do so since 1983.
In total, 10 Mountaineer divers qualified for the Zone A Diving Championships. That list also included freshman Holly Darling, who broke the school’s platform record in prelims at the Big 12 Championships.
West Virginia has no freshmen divers listed on their 2020-2021 men’s roster, but return 5 from last season. The women’s roster lists 6 divers next season, including USA Diving Junior Nationals semifinalist Sarah Haggerty.
Helder is a multi-time National and World Champion in Master’s diving. At the 2008 U.S. Masters Nationasl, she won her age group events on 1-meter and 3-meter and set new American Records in the process, breaking her own marks from 2004. That year she was also crowned World Champion in her age group on both springboards and broke age group World Records in both events.
As a student-athlete at California State University, Chico she was an NCAA Division I All-American diver, a two-time Division II individual national champion, and a member of a Division II national championship team.