Going into the 2004-05 swimming and diving season, Liz Klink knew that she would be coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but what she didn't know is that she was going to be working in Florida as opposed to Virginia. A two-year assistant at Virginia Tech, Klink is the newest member of 2004 ACC Coach of the Year Neil Harper's staff at Florida State University.
"Florida State is one of the top athletic departments in the country and has a lot to offer its student-athletes in not only getting a great education, but also allowing them to compete against the best athletes in the country," KIink said. "Neil has worked really hard over the last five years to establish both teams as two of the best in the country and I look forward to working with him and the student athletes."
For the past two seasons, the 24-year-old Klink has been helping two-time Big East Conference Coach of the Year Ned Skinner build the Hokies into one of the emerging programs in the league. Last season Va. Tech took third on the women's side, its best secondbest finish ever and the program's highest since 2001. During her first year in Blacksburg, Va., the men's squad posted its highest finish ever with a second-place showing.
"Liz has gained a lot of knowledge in a short period of time and her results speak for themselves," Harper said. "She has the ability to really relate to the athletes and has a good rapport with the parents as well. She brought some great athletes to Virginia Tech and she will be able to do the same for Florida State. She'll complement our staff very well."
Handling mostly the distance swimmers, Klink's star pupil in 2004 was freshman Gus Calado. The first Big East Champion in school history in a distance event, Calado was named Big East Outstanding Swimmer of the Year after setting the conference record in the 500-yard freestyle on his way to the league title.
On the women's side she had just as much of an impact, especially in the 500 and 1,650-yard freestyle. At last year's Big East Championships, the Hokies had three swimmers in the finals of both events. During Klink's first year, Virginia Tech only had one per race. One of those competitors was Jamie Spradlin, who set the school record in the 1,650 and 1,000 that season. 2003 also saw the women's team take down the 800-free relay mark.
"She had success coaching middle distance at Virginia Tech and we welcome her experience in those areas, but she can coach all aspects," Harper added. "I think our kids will be very excited to have Liz on board and have her knowledge on the deck at Florida State."
Before she was one of the top assistants in the league, Klink was one of the top swimmers in the Big East. She swam four years at the University of Connecticut, specializing in the middle distance events. When she completed her career in 2001, Klink held the school record in the 500 freestyle and was a member of the record-setting 400 and 800 freestyle relays.During her freshman season she helped lead the Huskies to their best finish at the conference championships in the last eight years as UConn swam to a sixth-place finish. Klink excelled in the classroom just as well as she did in the pool, earning a spot on the Big East Academic All-Star team each of her four years at UConn. She completed her career with the Huskies by earning the 2001 UConn Club Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete Award.
That year she also won the Connecticut Counseling Program's Intercollegiate Athlete Award for academic excellence and was a member of the student-athlete advisory committee. As a freshman in 1998, she participated in the NCAA Y.E.S. (Youth Education through Sports) Clinic and attended the NCAA Leadership Conference two years later.
"Being a younger coach has its advantages in that I'm not that far removed from going through the same experience that the current student-athletes are going through right now," Klink noted. "The recruiting process can be incredibly stressful for juniors and seniors and having gone through it recently I can talk them through it. It's not so much the school getting to know them, but rather the student-athlete finding the school that is right for them."
Prior to joining the coaching staff at Virginia Tech, Klink served as a volunteer assistant for the Huskies while she pursued her master's degree. Her coaching career dates back to her four-year stint as a coach for the Shongum Lake Swim Team in Randolph, N.J.
"Neil has improved both teams to the point where the men are back to where they were in the late 90's and he has taken the women's program on his shoulders and done an amazing job with them," Klink added. "I'm very excited about the prospects of taking both teams to the next level and becoming a dominant team in the ACC, building on the women's 17th-place finish at the NCAA meet last year and how each of them did at conference."
A native of Mt. Arlington, N.J., Klink graduated from Connecticut in 2001 summa cum laude in elementary education before adding a master's degree from UConn in same field.