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 fourth year as head coach of the Bears' swimming & diving program in 2015-16.
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 (Renata Sander 2011-13), Dora Kiss (2012), Uvis Kalnins (2013) and Lauren Pavel (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 one daughter, Annie.