World Class. Face to Face. That is the signature slogan for Washington State University and something the Cougar swimming program has taken to heart under ninth-year head coach Erica Quam.
During Quam's tenure, the WSU roster has featured student-athletes from a dozen states across the country and six foreign countries that have produced 19 school records, 82 spots on the Cougar individual top 10 lists, three placements at the NCAA Championships, two All-Americans and one Olympian. That's just in the water. In the classroom, there have been 75 Pacific-10 All-Academic honorees, including 25 first team selections and two Academic All-Americans. In addition, the Cougars were in the top 50 nationally academically among Division I schools for 12-straight semesters under Quam and have five times captured the Glenn Kranc Award, presented to the WSU athletic team with the best semester grade point average.
Over the last three seasons, the Cougars are 20-6 in dual meets including a victory over arch-rival Washington, Nov. 16, 2006, WSU's first over the Huskies since 2001.
Last season, WSU won its first-six dual meets for the first time in 30 years. The Cougars set 13 records at the Pac-10 Championships and sent a school-record three swimmers (Michaela Ahlin, Rugile Mileisyte and Elyse Peterson) to the NCAA Championships.
Ahlin (Sweden) and Mileisyte (Lithuania) each swam for their native country at the 2009 World University Games in Serbia and Mileisyte represented Lithuania at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.
In 2007-08, the Cougars swam 87 lifetime bests among 18 swimmers. At the Pacific-10 Conference Championships, 16 swims made the evening final sessions.
In both 2006 and 2007, Quam mentored NCAA All-American Erin McCleave. A native of Rutherglen, Australia, McCleave finished 11th in the 1650 freestyle at the 2006 NCAA Championships to earn her first All-America honor. She improved her placement in the 1650 freestyle to 10th at the 2007 NCAA Championships and added a 14th-place finish in the 200 freestyle to become a three-time All-American.
Other notable Cougar alumnae coached by Quam include Lindsay Henahan, the Cougars' current assistant coach, and Jane Copland. Henahan was a 2003 All-American and a U.S. National participant.
She qualified and competed in the butterfly at the 2004 Olympic Trials finishing 35th. Henahan remains the WSU record-holder in the 100 butterfly and a member of the school's fastest 200 free and 200 medley relays.
Quam also worked with Copland who qualified for the 2006 NCAA Championships her senior year in the 200 breaststroke. Copland went on to place 60th in the 200 IM, and 28th in the 200 breaststroke. She was a member of the 800 free relay that broke the school record at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships. Copland earned an NCAA Consideration time in the 200 breaststroke in each of her first three seasons at WSU. Copland swam to a 21st-place finish at the 2003 U.S. Nationals and ranks on five Cougar all-time top 10 lists.
Quam understands the importance of her athletes' abilities in the classroom as well as the pool.
"My interest is in coaching the whole person and seeing each swimmer achieve success toward her degree and career ambitions," Quam said. "I place emphasis on striving to be great student-athletes which requires them to be dedicated in both the classroom and in the pool. Our team sets academic goals just as they set swimming related goals. This is something that comes from within the team. For them to have such an excellent academic record, they have to strive for this and want it for themselves as a group."
Quam also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and focuses on working together as a group throughout the season. The past eight years, the Cougars have gone on a fall retreat in order to get to know each other better and find way to work together both in and out of the pool. Activities at the retreats have included open water swimming, trailrunning, camping, hiking and a challenge course focusing on teamwork.
Continuing her own education as a coach, Quam was selected to participate in a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Instructor Course in the spring of 2008 based out of Lander, Wyo. Quam spent 18 days backpacking in the Wind River Wilderness, followed by a 10-day technical climbing section at Split Rock Canyon. Quam became a certified Wilderness First Responder in December of 2007 and spent two weeks backpacking in the Canadian Yukon with NOLS in the summer of 2005.
Last December, Quam was selected to attend a Winter Training Camp for NOLS instructors in Driggs, Idaho, located in the valley adjacent to the Grand Tetons. There, she worked with a group of 10 women on winter camping skills such as avalanche training, Telemark skiing, building snow shelters and cold injury prevention. This past summer, Quam helped lead her first NOLS course with two other coinstructors in the Palisades Range in Idaho. She spent two weeks backpacking with 14-15-year-olds (group of 15), teaching them the NOLS curriculum.
"My experiences with NOLS have helped me become a better person and ultimately a better coach for my team," Quam said. "I loved working with the kids this summer and being out there in the lead as an instructor for the first time. The kids I worked with did a great job of working together as a team and keeping positive attitudes during long hiking days and a huge array of challenging weather we encountered during our expedition.
"It was great to be there in a support role to help them realize how much they are capable of handling on their own. For me personally, there are so many things that NOLS teaches that carry over to my coaching career: creating a positive learning environment, working on effective communication, learning from experiences, motivating one another, facing individual challenges, functioning as a highly effective team, and most importantly having fun and enjoying the journey."
Quam was selected to attend the 2005 Women in Coaching Summit held at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The summit is a joint project of the NCAA and USOC and includes swimming coaches from both organizations. She participated on a women's panel at the American Swim Coaches Association Convention in San Diego during 2004 and 2007.
For the last 13 years, Quam has been a part of The Women's Coaching Summit. This group includes swimming coaches from Princeton, California, UCLA, Purdue, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Texas, Georgia and Minnesota. The annual event provides everyone an opportunity to see one another away from the chaos of the pool deck along with a chance to share their successes and strategies in working with their teams and themselves throughout the season.
"I feel very fortunate to be a part of this group of women. I have learned a great deal from each one of these individuals and grown as a coach from their feedback and guidance. These are some of the best coaches in our sport."
Quam came to the Palouse from Southern Methodist University, where she served as assistant coach for five years. During her career with the Mustangs, Quam was instrumental in SMU winning five straight Western Athletic Conference championships. During that time, SMU captured four WAC Swimmer of the Year awards as well as five consecutive WAC Freshman of the Year awards. During Quam's tenure at SMU, the Mustangs finished in the top 10 at the NCAA meet four times, including fourth in 1998 and third in 1999.
Quam also assisted with five Olympic and World Championship medalists during her stint with the Mustangs. In addition, she coached seven NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners. While at SMU, she earned her master's degree in liberal arts.
Before joining the SMU coaching staff, Quam worked as a student assistant coach at Indiana during the 1996-97 season. Quam graduated from Indiana in 1997 with a bachelor's of science degree in biology. As a Hoosier, Quam earned Alpha Beta honors and was a Big Ten Scholar Athlete honoree.
A native of Roanoke, Va., Quam swam the breast and IM events for the Hoosiers. She was a team co-captain her junior and senior years. She was also the recipient of the Aline Robinson mental attitude award as a junior. Quam was a three-time member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Indiana.
Quam worked as a coach and counselor at the University of Texas Longhorn Swim Camp from 1995-1997 and served as the head camp counselor during the last two years. She also coached the Dallas Aquatic Masters team throughout the year from 1997-2002 and assisted the Dallas Mustangs Swim Club during the summer from 1998-2001.
A 1992 graduate of Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Quam competed for her high school's varsity team and the RVSI (Roanoke Valley Swimming Incorporated) Gators.
In her spare time, Quam enjoys exploring the outdoors around Pullman, including hiking, camping, snowshoeing, backpacking and most recently tele-skiing with her dog Kaia. She was born May 23, 1974.