Missouri State swimming and diving student-athletes Garrett Nevels and Andi Burroughs, along with head coach Dave Collins, talk to Bears All-Access about the Bears' training trip and previews the upcoming home meet against Truman State on Senior Day
Dave Collins, a former Missouri State assistant, enters his fifth year as head coach of the Bears' swimming & diving program in 2016-17.
Missouri State continued its trend of participating and appearing at the national level during the 2015-16 season. Collins coached freshman Artur Osvath at the NCAA Championships, the fourth consecutive year an MSU swimmer has made it to the national stage, which is the longest stretch during the program's Division I history. Osvath eventually placed a personal-best 17th in the 200 breast, the second-highest finish at the NCAA Championships in school history.
Collins also helped guide the MSU squads to achievements in and out of the water during the 2015-16 season. While the Bears' women's team fell just a half a point from winning its ninth straight Missouri Valley Conference championship, seven NCAA consideration times were obtained and Dora Kiss continued the Bears' grip on the MVC Swimmer of the Year, earning the award her second time while an MSU swimmer was honored for a sixth straight occurrence. The men's team also had several noteworthy performances, with seniors Uvis Kalnins and Miguel Davila earning three-peats in events at the Mid-American Conference Championships. Kalnins was named the MAC Outstanding Senior of the Year for his performance throughout the season and the squad captured 23 NCAA consideration times.
In all, the Bears have broken 32 of a possible 42 combined individual and relay program records during Collins' tenure as head of the Missouri State men's and women's swimming and diving programs. MSU also continues to be recognized by the College Swimming Coaches Association for its academic success. The Bears' men's squad has been ranked in the top 10 in team cumulative GPA among all Division I programs for six straight semesters, while the women's team has been selected to the CSCAA Scholar All-America Team list since it began in fall 2010.
The Bears' rise to prominence at the national level didn't slow down in 2014-15, with Missouri State making its biggest splash at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championship by sending a school-record three student-athletes to the meet. Paul Le and Uvis Kalnins made their third and second trips to the NCAA's, respectively, while senior Garrett Nevels became the first Missouri State diver in 25 years to qualify to compete at the national level.
Collins' squad also found just as much success at the conference level. Despite a runner-up finish by a mere 20 points at Mid-American Conference Championships on the men's side, the Bears won 11 of the 20 events and broke eight school records in the span of four days. The Bears also continued their success on the women's side under Collins' watch. Winning nine of 20 events and taking seven of the top 14 spots in the final individual race -- the 200-yard IM -- Missouri State extended its Missouri Valley Conference championship streak to eight, tied for the second longest active streak in NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving with the University of Virginia.
The 2013-14 season proved to be one of the most memorable in Missouri State swimming and diving history, with both the men and women sweeping their respective conference titles. The men won their 19th conference championship in school history and their first as a member of the Mid-American Conference, while the women earned their seventh straight Missouri Valley Conference title and their 11th overall. Collins earned his second straight year of Coach of the Year honors from both the MVC and MAC. He also was the head coach of MAC Outstanding Diver Garrett Nevels, MAC Swimmer of the Year Uvis Kalnins and three-time MVC Swimmer of the Year Renata Sander.
Several school records were broken throughout the year, with Kalnins and Paul Le breaking previous milestones at the 2014 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin, Texas. The Bears were also recognized by Collegeswimming.com in February, receiving a No. 24 national ranking following a defeat of the No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes in a dual at the Shamrock Invitational.
In his first full season at the helm in 2012-13, Collins swept Coach of the Year honors, voted on by Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and Mid-American Conference (MAC) head coaches. The Bears won an unprecedented sixth straight title at the 2013 MVC Women's Swimming & Diving Championships in Carbondale, Ill. Altogether, Missouri State won 11 events and picked up five NCAA provisional times, while junior Renata Sander and freshman Dora Kiss shared co-MVC Swimmer of the Year accolades.
Meanwhile, the Missouri State men experienced a successful run during the 2012-13 campaign, capped off by the Bears' first NCAA Championship appearance since 2005. Sophomore qualifier Paul Le became the first swimmer in school history to score points at NCAAs with a top-16 finish in the 200-yard backstroke, earning him Division I All-American honorable mention recognition. As a team, Missouri State recorded its highest finish (2nd) at a MAC Championship event, just six points away from unseating Eastern Michigan for the title. The men notched 12 NCAA `B' cuts throughout the season and after a 23-year hiatus from the NCAA Division I Top 25, the Bears debuted at No. 23 in the season's first poll.
Under Collins' direction as interim head coach during the 2012 spring semester, the women won their fifth consecutive MVC championship and recorded the second-largest margin of victory in MSU history.
As head coach, Collins and the Bears' staff have produced 32 All-MVC first team selections and 12 All-MAC first teamers. Collins has also coached five conference swimmers of the year, a list that includes Dora Kiss (2016, 12), Lauren Pavel (2015), Renata Sander (2011-14) and Uvis Kalnins (2014). Academically, with team GPAs of 3.0 or higher, both Bear squads have annually earned CSCAA Scholar All-America team honors.
Collins was named the fifth head coach at Missouri State on April 16, 2012, joining the likes of Jack Steck (1983-2011), Kent Kirchner (1982-83), Barry Hartwyk (1979-82) and Dale Williams (1965-79).
In addition to coaching duties and day-to-day operations, Collins has taken the Bears' recruiting efforts to new heights. He and his coaching staff are responsible for signing Missouri State's first top-100 recruit: 2012 Olympian Uvis Kalnins of Latvia. CollegeSwimming.com listed Kalnins as the No. 68 overall swimmer in the 2012 recruiting class.
In four years as an assistant under MSU Hall of Famer Jack Steck, Collins coached 26 Valley women's individual champions and 18 men's individual champions at the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference Championships. Other notable achievements as an assistant and associate head coach included four consecutive MVC titles and a Sun Belt title for the MSU men in 2008. At the 2009 MVC Championships, Collins' stroke group, led by Jordan Hawkins, Brianna Willoughby and Chelsea Dirks-Ham, combined for seven gold medals.
Since his arrival at Missouri State, the Bears have broken every men's and women's school record in the non-freestyle events.
During his stint as an MSU assistant, Collins simultaneously served as head coach for the Missouri State Aquatics club team, where he developed several Missouri Valley top-eight finishers, sectional qualifiers and produced the program's first junior national qualifier. Prior to Missouri State, Collins enjoyed stops as head swimming & diving coach for Springfield Parkview and Ozark High School.
As a student-athlete at Drury, Collins was an Academic All-American and specialized in the backstroke events. During his four-year career, the Panthers won a pair of NCAA Division II national titles (2003, 2005) and two national runner-up finishes (2002, 2004).
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Collins finished his undergraduate degree in design arts in 2005 and earned his master's degree in communications in 2007, both at Drury. He and his wife, Amy, have two daughters, Annie and Addison.