James Sweeney is entering his ninth season as the University of Missouri men's and women's diving coach.
Under his tutelage, the diving program has seen unprecedented levels of success, as it has made its way into the national spotlight.
In 2012-13, the Sweeney again proved that Mizzou was one home to one the nation's top diving programs. Junior David Bonuchi earned the sixth, seventh and eighth All-America honors of his illustrous career after placing on all three events. Addionally, redshirt sophomore Loren Figueroa returned to form after rehabing in
2011-12 to take fifth on the 1-meter at NCAAs.
At the 2013 SEC Championships, Figueroa won the first SEC title on the women's side with a win on the 1-meter. She is now a perfect two-for-two on the event in conference championships.
2011-12 saw perhaps Mizzou's finest diving season in program history. Sophomore David Bonuchi earned three All-America honors with a second place finish on the platform, while coming in fourth in the 3-meter and sixth on the 1-meter. Bonuchi's points at the NCAA Championships gave the Tigers a 19th-place finish, the best in program history.
Bonuchi also claimed Mizzou's first-ever Big 12 men's diving title at the Big 12 Championships in February. He defeated defending champion Drew Livingston to win the 3-meter and earned runner-up honors in the 1-meter and platform events.
In 2010-11, Loren Figueroa claimed the 1 meter title at the Big 12 Championships, en route to a second place showing at the NCAA Championships in the same event. The finish was the highest ever for a Missouri diver and her score of 349.65 broke her own school record. Additionally, Dante Jones and David Bonuchi also qualified for NCAAs, with Bonuchi earned two All-America honors.
Sweeney got Mizzou off in the right direction in 2005-06 when Evan Watters became the first men's diving All-American in the program's 40-year history after placing 12th on the 1-meter board and 13th on the platform at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta.
Sweeney has also led a number of other divers to success in the well, including David Boyko and Greg DeStephen, who both qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2006-07. Their accomplishment marked the first time the program has sent multiple men's divers to NCAA's in the same season.
Another diver who has come into her own under Sweeney's instruction is Kendra Melnychuk. In 2006-07, the Canadian claimed top honors on the platform at Zones and qualified for NCAA's, where she recorded an 18th-place finish. Melnychuk also placed eighth at the Canadian World University Game Trials in 2007.
With Boyko, DeStephen and Melnychuk qualifying for Nationals in 2006-07, it marked the first time in MU history that three Tigers reached the highest level of competition in collegiate diving in the same year.
In 2007-08, Melnychuk, DeStephen and freshman Dante Jones all qualified for the NCAA National Championships. After scoring points in three different events at the competition, DeStephen and Melnychuk earned All-America honors.
Sweeney dove for the Tigers from 1999-2003 and graduated from Mizzou in 2004 with a degree in leisure service management. During Sweeney's collegiate career, he was a four-time Big 12 Diver of the Month and held the program's 1-meter and 3-meter dual meet and championships records. He also had a second-place finish at the Big 12 Championships.
Following graduation, he became the volunteer coach for the Tigers and created the Mizzou Diving Club team with former MU diving coach Greg Triefenbach. Within the first six months of the Mizzou Diving Club, Sweeney had a diver place sixth in the country and had three other divers who were national qualifiers. The club team began with 11 divers and has now blossomed into a team with a total of 45 competitors. Sweeney has also instructed a three-time national champion diver for his age group. Under Sweeney's guidance, this diver qualified for four international competitions, taking place in China, Europe, Puerto Rico and Germany.
The Eureka, Mo., native was a 2001 U.S. Senior Olympics National Qualifier and team MVP. Sweeney lives in Columbia with his wife Anna and daughter Addison.