March 6, 2019 / Former VU student-athlete sees Coach achieve Hall of Fame status
LINK to photo of Coach Wickens, click HERE
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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