ContactLonghorn Aquatics 1900 Red River Street D4050 Austin, Texas 78712 Phone- (512) 471-7703 Fax- (512) 471-0598
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Swimming Head Coach
Laitala, an All-American swimmer for the University of Texas, has been serving the club as the Associate Head Coach for three years. He began his coaching career in Austin in early 2000 at the Austin Country Club.
In 2003, while the Head Swim Coach at ACC and Dolphin Aquatics, Mike served as the Volunteer Assistant Coach with the University of Texas Men’s Swim Team legendary coaching duo, Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik. The Longhorns finished runner-up at the NCAA Championships that year, and Mike followed a career path into coaching at the collegiate levels.
In late 2003, Laitala joined the staff of the University of North Texas Women’s Swim Team. During his one-year stint, serving as the assistant swim coach, the Mean Green produced the school’s first individual conference title. Mike also managed to coach age-group levels in helping to start the Denton City Aquatics Club and worked as Head Age Group Coach in its inaugural year. In 2004, Mike moved to Colorado to take an Assistant Coach position with the University of Denver Men’s and Women’s Swim Team.
The University of Denver, a private institution, had recently elevated their NCAA status to Division I in Athletics. Over the five year period Mike was at DU, he served under two Head Coaches, Jim Henry, and Brian Schrader. The Pioneers experienced phenomenal program development, soaring to new heights every year. In 2004, both the Pioneer Men’s and Women’s teams were the #1 ranked GPA academic teams out of all NCAA Division I swim teams. In the pool, DU set all new school records, won numerous conference individual and relay titles, and scored their second and third All-American performances in the sports of swimming and diving for the school. In 2009, Mike’s final season with the Pioneers, the Men’s Team won the first team conference title in Denver’s history, had one swimmer qualify for the Canadian World Championships Team, and one swimmer swim in the United States World Championships Trials. Late in that final year in Denver, numerous national level athletes from the Pioneer team, representing the Denver Hilltoppers, helped to win Far West Sectionals for the first time for the community.
Returning to Austin in the fall of 2009, Mike joined the Longhorn Aquatics family. He has been primarily responsible for assistant coaching duties of the National and Senior Groups. He helped build the new Longhorn Aquatics Hill Country satellite site in Burnet, Texas, most recently acting as Head Coach and bringing top-notch swimming instruction to the area. He has worked for three years to build solid foundations for future programming success, and has already started building healthy relationships within the community and surrounding areas to foster swimming support.
Laitala was an All-American swimmer for the University of Texas, where he competed in backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, and I.M. from 1996-2000 for the Longhorns. He represented his hometown of Richardson, Texas at the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle. Mike graduated from UT with a degree in Kinesiology and an All-Level Teaching Certification in physical education. Fun fact: Mike is also a world-rank professional disc golf player.
Masters Swimming Head Coach
Whitney Hedgepeth was a 27-time All-American and a three-time NCAA Champion during her collegiate career at The University of Texas at Austin. She graduated in 1994 with a Elementary Education Degree and taught 6th grade Language Arts for one year before deciding to return to swimming in hopes of making the 1996 Olympic Team. Whitney was a versatile swimmer and won seven national titles in seven different events (100 fly, 200 IM, 400 IM, 100 back, 200 back, 200 free, 500 free). She competed in the 1988 Olympics while still in High School in Seoul, Korea swimming the 200 IM and placing 8th. She later competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, winning three medals: a gold in the 400 medley relay, a silver in the 100 back, and a silver in the 200 back. After her achievements in Atlanta, Whitney retired from competitive swimming and decided to focus on coaching. Whitney started coaching at Longhorn Aquatics in 1996 as the head age-group coach. She was the National Team head-coach and Director of Longhorn Aquatics from 1998-2001. After having kids of her own, Whitney switched her focus to coaching adults where she currently holds the position of head swimming coach of our Master’s program. Whitney was inducted into the UT Women’s Hall of Honor in 2007 and the Virigina Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Whitney is married and has three children: a daughter who swims for Longhorn Aquatics and two sons who love baseball and football.
Co-Head Dive Coach and Membership Manager
Co-Head Dive Coach
Jim Zagaria comes to Longhorn Aquatics from Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia. Under Zagaria, Marshall divers have set program firsts.
In the 2009-10 season, Marshall sent multiple divers to the NCAA Zones. Under Zagaria’s direction, Rachel Hannum, Haley Holmquist and Lauren Rone qualified for MU. Rone became the second MU freshman to qualify for the event.
Rone returned to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Rone holds the 1 Meter ad Platform School Records at Marshall. She also was named C-USA Diver of the Week and Marshall Student Athlete on several occasions.
Zagaria, a 2006 graduate of Metropolitan State University, was on the Iowa State diving team from 1997-2001.
His coaching experience at the high school level began in 2001 at Ames High School, where he coached a state champion and an All-American. From 2003-05 he coached the Woodbury HS girls team, which produced one state champion and two All-Americans. Zagaria also coached two All-State selections during his tenure at Anoka HS from 2004-06. He was named Section Diving Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
With Zagaria as the associate head coach of the Twin City (Minn.) Divers (2003-09), the club saw 47 Junior National qualifiers, 28 Senior National qualifiers, a 2009 AT&T National Diving Championship, a 2009 Men’s Synchronizing Platform Championship and two divers attend the World Team Trials. He also served as the meet manager at the 2007 USA Diving Spring Nationals.
At the college level, Zagaria has coached at the College of St. Catherine (2003-06), the University of St. Thomas (2003-05) and the University of Minnesota (2006-07). From 2003-06 he produced a finalist in both the one-meter and three-meter dives at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship. At UM he coached Big Ten finalists in the one-meter, three-meter and platform events; along with Divers of the Week and NCAA Zone qualifiers.
Water Polo Head Coach & Assistant Coach Swimming (National/AGE/Sr. Longhorn)
Tom Andrew graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007 with a degree in human development and family sciences. For his practicum, Tom acted as the assistant coach to the National team and trained the Junior Longhorns for Longhorn Aquatics. Tom is in his third year of coaching for Longhorn Aquatics. Prior to 2007, he coached at the Greater Northwest Gators Club and Swim America in San Antonio for four years.
During his time at UT, Tom was co-captain of the UT Water Polo team from 2005-07, on the Texas Division All-Conference Team 2003-06 and the Texas Division MVP in 2004. He earned three letters in swimming and water polo at Marshall High School in San Antonio. In the 2001-02 swim season, he was named District Swimmer of the Year and an All-American in the 100 yard back.
Assistant Coach (Longhorns) and Meet Director
Bridgette Rhoades comes to Longhorn Aquatics with 18 years of competitive swimming experience. Since starting with Longhorn Aquatics she has coached an array of ages and groups including Masters, from STAGS to National qualifiers. On the Longhorn deck she brings a great deal of spirit and enthusiasm to the team.
A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Bridgette swam and played water polo at Slippery Rock University. A four-time letter winner and co-captain, Bridgette was a 100 and 200 backstroke specialist. She graduated from Slippery Rock in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education for grades K-12 and a minor in aquatics.
Bridgette began coaching an age-group summer league in 1998. She continued coaching throughout college and made her way down to Austin in 2005 via the Longhorn Swim Camp, where she was a camp coach/counselor. Since living in Austin, she has become the head coach for Circle C Seals summer league, a multi-faceted instructor through the American Red Cross, and the team liaison with AISD.
Coach Lara Ruthven brings to Longhorn Aquatics added knowledge and experience both as a coach and athlete. Lara earned a Master’s degree in Exercise Science and Physical Education from California State University, Chico. She received her Undergraduate degree from The University of Texas in Kinesiology where she was a member of the UT swim team. Lara was Conference Champion in 1992 & 1993 in the 400 IM. She was an Olympic Trials qualifier in both the 400 IM and 200 backstroke in 1992. By 1999 Lara had transitioned to be a competitive road cyclist. She was a two time World Championship Qualifier for the USA Cycling Team in 2000 and 2001. Was on the USA National Road Cycling Team from 2000 to 2003. Lara lived in Italy and competed at the Women’s Tour de France twice, the women’s Giro of Italy and numerous World Cup events from 2000 to 2003.
Coach Lara has been coaching and teaching swimming since she was 15 years old. Lara’s coaching philosophy is based on a foundation of stroke technique and quality training. Through quality training and great technique each swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete can develop their maximum strength and efficiency to achieve their goals. Lara believes that endurance sports like swimming and triathlon are a unique way that can help kids develop self-esteem, discipline and goal setting skills for life.
Pflugerville Assistant Coach
Kristina (Kris) Pequeno
Jr. Longhorn Swimming & Store Manager
Christian was an All American swimmer for the University of Texas. He graduated from UT with a degree in Kinesiology and joined the Longhorn Aquatics coaching staff in 2013.
Christian has been helping people with technique throughout his career. Swimming for Randy Reese, Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik, he learned from the best. Christian also swam with many Olympians including Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, and Neil Walker, among others. Watching and learning from swimmers like this is invaluable.
In 2011 Christian started coaching at Austin Community College. He teaches students new to swimming the fundamentals of how to swim. He also works with students who previously swam in organized programs and want to improve their stroke. Christian can help anyone learn and improve no matter the level of experience they have.
Some of Christian’s accomplishments include: World University Games 2003 and Pan American Games 2007 for Team USA; 2012-2013 SC and LC World Championships qualifier and 2012 Olympian for Mexico in the 200 meter Breaststroke.
Christian’s passion is swimming and he can’t wait to help more swimmers improve and enjoy their swimming experience!
Assistant Dive Coach
Growing up, Lea was a gymnast for 6 years in North Austin. After one too many injuries, and outgrowing the sport at a massive 5’4″, Lea decided to try diving after watching Laura Wilkinson at the Olympics in 2004. She dove for Longhorn Aquatics for 5 years and competed in volleyball and track. She liked the fun of coming to dive practice and perfecting the basics with George Perdue as her coach. Lea qualified twice for All American, was three times a district medalist and was a regional finalist her junior year. While she chose not to pursue competitive diving in college, she still wants to be involved in the sport as a coach. Lea is entering into her 4th and final year at Texas State University in beautiful San Marcos, Texas where she is majoring in Health and Fitness Management. Lea aspires to open a Natatorium/Sport facility combo of her own some day.