Missouri State swimming and diving assistant coach Chelsea Dirks-Ham spoke to Bears All-Access about the women's team's preparation before they begin action at the 2015 MVC Championship on Wednesday, Feb. 18, in Carbondale, Ill.
Chelsea Dirks-Ham begins her fifth season on head coach Dave Collins' staff and third as an assistant coach for the Bears in 2015-16. Previously, she served as a graduate assistant in 2012-13 and volunteer assistant in 2011-12.
This past 2014-15 season may have been one of the most memorable years during Dirks-Ham's coaching tenure on both the men's and women's teams.
The Bears won their eighth straight Missouri Valley Conference crown on the women's side, tying the University of Virginia for the second-longest active streak in NCAA Division I swimming. Missouri State won nine of the 20 events at the MVC meet, with several swimmers breaking school and conference meet records. The 200-yard IM served as a key example of Missouri State's dominant presence as the Bears went 1-2-3-5 in the A-finals and had seven of the top 14 finishers in the event. Dirks-Ham has been an active member of either the team as a swimmer or coach during the Bears' eight-year reign atop the MVC.
Her contributions have also positively correlated to the men's team. Despite a runner-up performance at the Mid-American Conference meet in March 2015 by a mere 20 points, the Bears dominated action in the pool by winning 11 of the 20 events overall. Missouri State had 10 swimmers achieve NCAA consideration times as two Bears -- Paul Le and Uvis Kalnins -- made their third and second respective trips to the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Iowa City in March 2015. The Bears also sent diver Garrett Nevels who gave MSU its largest contingent ever to participate at the national meet.
The Bears' assistant coach has won titles as an assistant on the women's side and also the men's side, as the Bears earned their first title as a member of the Mid-American Conference in March 2014.
In her time as a graduate assistant coach, Missouri State continued its prominence in the stroke events at the MVC Women's Swimming & Diving Championships. The Bears women's swimmers have owned the medley relays since her time as a GA, extending its streak to 12 straight victories in the 200 medley, while they have won 10 of the past 11 400 medley relays. In 2012-13, Missouri State compiled five NCAA consideration times along with seven individual conference titles. With the exception of the 100 fly, the Bears nearly swept the stroke events at the 2013 MVC Championships in Carbondale, Ill.
In 2012-13 alone, the women set new varsity records in six stroke events, in addition to five Valley championship records.
On the men's side, the Dirks-Ham has been involved with the successful postseason runs by Paul Le and Uvis Kalnins. Both set new school records at the 2013-14 NCAA Championships, while the 2012-13 campaign ended on a high note with Le becoming the Bears' first NCAA qualifier since 2005. Not only that, Le also became the first swimmer in school history to score points at the NCAA Championships with a top-16 finish in the 200 back and earn Honorable Mention All-America recognition.
During her time in Springfield, Dirks-Ham has also coached age-group swimmers for the Missouri State Aquatics club team.
Dirks-Ham remains one of the most dominant and decorated swimmers in Missouri State women's swimming & diving history. During her collegiate career, Dirks-Ham became a four-time All-MVC first-team selection and totaled 13 gold medals. She also set numerous school and conference records along the way. As a senior, she captained the Bears to their fourth-consecutive MVC title and eighth in a nine-year span. Her MSU record in the 100 butterfly (55.34), set at the 2009 MVC Championships, still stands today.
A native of Lawrence, Kan., Dirks-Ham earned her bachelor's degree in exercise & movement science in 2011 and is currently working on her master's in health administration.