March 6, 2019 / Former VU student-athlete sees Coach achieve Hall of
LINK to photo of Coach Wickens, click
CUTLINE - Retired Vincennes University swimming and diving
coach Harry Wickens, right, was inducted into the NJCAA Swimming and
Diving Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a March 5 banquet in
Buffalo, New York. Congratulating Wickens is former VU swimming and
diving student-athlete and coach TJ Day who helped nominate Wickens
for the honor. ###
VINCENNES, Ind. - Harry Wickens helped start the Vincennes
University swimming and diving program in 1980 and quickly became a
nationally recognized powerhouse.
Wickens coached the VU swimming and diving men’s and women’s
teams for 21 years. In celebration of his contributions to the sport,
he was inducted into the NJCAA Swimming and Diving Coaches Association
Hall of Fame on March 5 in Buffalo, New York, held in conjunction with
the 2019 National Meet Athlete Banquet.
The Trailblazers built a strong tradition of swimming and
diving under Wickens. VU produced 21 individual national champions in
37 events at the NJCAA national meet and 223 student-athletes earned
All-America honors with him at the helm. He was named NJCAA National
Coach of the Year three times. Wickens, who was also a physical
education professor, coached the Trailblazers through the 2000-01 season.
“Harry had one of the top swimming programs in the country,”
said VU athletic director Harry Meeks. “They were very well known and
performed well at the national meet every year.
“We had the old swimming pool upstairs. There were a lot of
swimmers around at that time. Harry was a big part of the university.
I know all his former swimmers are excited about Coach Wickens being
inducted into the NJCAA Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.”
Former VU swimming and diving student-athlete and coach TJ Day
helped nominate Wickens for the honor.
“It’s well deserved and it’s well overdue, not only for Harry,
but Vincennes University too,” Day said. “Harry is a great mentor and
coach. He is exactly what represents junior college athletics. The
program was always a top-three program. It was always competing for
national championships. Athletes were always competing at a high level.
“What stood out about him was it wasn’t about him. He was very
laid back and he wanted to make it all about the athletes.”
Wickens had been a student-athlete himself. He swam at Purdue
University in the early 1960s.
Growing up, swimming played an important role in his life.
Wickens was raised in a military family and moved around a lot.
Swimming was a big deal on military bases. He went on to serve in the
military as a Navy SEAL.
He was coaching in Australia when he came across a job
advertising an opening to coach the Vincennes city swim team. A short
time later, he teamed with former president Dr. Isaac Beckes and Board
of Trustee member Bernie Niehaus to start VU’s swimming and diving program.
“Over a 1,000 kids came here to swim,” Wickens said.
“Practically from every state and 10 or 12 different countries.”
VU became a swimming and diving force with a strong schedule
and talented student-athletes. The Trailblazers competed often against
NCAA schools and regularly defeated them.
“We beat Notre Dame, Evansville, Ball State, Butler, and
Indiana State,” Wickens said. “We could always hold our own with most schools.
The program’s success carried over when the Trailblazers
participated in national meets.
“Twenty-five times VU was either second or third at nationals,”
Wickens said. “We were strong runner-ups. It always alternated if the
girls were second the guys were third, and if the guys were second,
then the girls were third.”
Wickens is incredibly proud of the Trailblazers’
accomplishments. He believes it is an honor for the student-athletes
who were a part of the program as much as it is for him.
“I’m going for the 1,000 kids,” he said. “I’m in it because of
them and I’m thinking they are all in it. Especially with [the
program] stopping. It’s their recognition for all the things they did
when they were here.”
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MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell,
TRAVIS DAVID, Assistant
Sports Information Director
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of
University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom