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Coaches & Directors

CATS staff is here to support your swimmers needs. If your have questions related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, and other practice/meet related questions; please contact one of your siwmmers group coaches. For all questions related to the administration of the program such as dues, safety, or policy issues; please contact Coach Jeff.

Coaching Staff

Jeff Arce

Head Coach

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Jeff has been coaching with the CATS Aquatic Team since 2004 and has been the Head Coach of the CATS Aquatic Team since 2008. Jeff spent his first four years at CATS as the Head Age Group Coach. Jeff has previously served as Head Coach of the District Unified Swim Team,

 

Jeff primarily works with the Silver Group but you will see him at many other practices watching or giving feedback. 

 

Jeff is an ASCA Level 4 certified coach he has worked with athletes of all ages and abilities. He has spent most of his coaching career working with age group swimmers who have been Sectional Finalists, Nationally Top 16 Ranked, Age Group State Champions, Zone Champions and State Record Holders. Jeff has seen the CATS Aquatic team place as high as 5th at the Illinois Age Group Championship.

Aside from his work with CATS, Jeff has been the Team Illinois Zone Manager and has served as a coach for many Illinois Camps and Clinics. He also served as Boys Water Polo Coach for Libertyville High School from 2004-2008.

Educated at University Wisconsin-Madison, Valparaiso University and University of Illinois-Chicago Jeff has a Bachelors’ Degree in Mathematics with an Illinois teaching certificate. Jeff swam competitively at Wisconsin and Valparaiso until a shoulder injury ended his career.

Jeff and his wife Nina, daughter Hannah, son Danny and dog Casey live in Arlington Heights! Jeff has a simple philosophy when it comes to swimming: He is committed to providing “something for everyone,” regardless of their ability or experience. He believes that teaching swimmers Life Values through competition is more important than fast times. He feels that learning the value of hard work, discipline and self-respect though sportsmanship, respect for others, will result in an overall successful person.

Vlad Pyshnenko

Head Senior Coach

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Coach Vlad hails from Russia carrying his enormous wealth of swimming knowledge as an athlete and a coach.
After arriving in America a little more then 19 years ago, Vlad has worked with all different age groups. His heart and soul is swimming and he takes great pride in watching that passion develop in the swimmers.

His motivation is contagious; he will help achieve goals in a proactive and entertaining style.

Coach Vlad is a former Russian freestyler who won one gold medal (World Record) and two silver medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and one silver medal 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He also won two silver medals at the 1994 World Aquatics Championships in Rome.

Vlad still compiting at the Masters level and currently holding few US National records for 35-39 and 40-44 Age Group, plus 3 World Records (1 - on 200 Free for 35-39 Age Group and 2 - on 100 & 200 Free for 40-44 Age Group)

Since arriving in the U.S., Vlad has coached at COHO Swim Team, Glenbrook Aquatics (formerly Northbrook Spartan Swim Club) and at CATS Aquatic Team.
 

Mike Cunningham

Head Developmental Coach

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Coach Mike holds a B.S. in Physical Education and coaching, with a minor in History and Kinesiology from Western Illinois University. He is a life plus member of ASCA, and a fully certified USA swimming coach.  He has coached numerous regional, age group state, and senior state qualifiers in his previous 15 years coaching experience.  He was also the 13-18 Zone coach for Illinois in 2005 and 2009, and the Head Zones coach for Team Illinois 2013-2015.  He started Midway Aquatics in 2005, the club grew from 25 swimmers to 170, and developed repeated regional, age group state, central zone, and senior state qualifiers.  He also started Life Time Illinois Swim Team in 2013, and introduced the health club to the competitive world if Illinois Swimming.  Coach Mike also served on the Illinois Swimming Board of Directors as Coaches Representative and Senior Vice Chair.  Along with his love of swimming, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, wake boarding, snowboarding, and spending time with his family.

Natalia Mechtcheriakova

Lead Green Group Coach

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Coach Natalia is in her 6th year of coaching with the CATS and her 2nd year as the lead coach for the Green group. She is a Level 2 ASCA certified swim coach.  Natalia has a Bachelors Degree in Physical Education, and began her coaching career when her daughter Daria joined CATS.  As a former Athlete for Russia’s National team, she has had lots of experience as a national level swimmer. She received a Bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics games, while being part of the 400 Medley Relay. In 1994 at the World Championship she achieved a Silver medal and a European record in the 50 FR.  In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta she was a finalist in the 50 Fr. Natalia enjoys working with the kids to meet their swimming goals, and challenge them to strive to be better in and out of the water.

Barbara K Cunningham

Lead Purple and Blue Group Coach

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This is my 4rd year as Lead coach for the Purple group at Cats, and 3rd year as Lead coach for the Blue group.  I am an ASCA Level 2 Certified Swim Coach, with an 8 and Under specialty.  I really started my swimming life when my husband and I owned our own Swim America Swim Lesson program for 4 years.  Once we decided to close the business, I worked at Goldfish Swim School for a year, before I started my coaching life here.  My family is a bit of a swimming family.  My husband also works at Cats as the Lead Coach of Orange and Head Developmental Coach.  I have 2 kids, a daughter and a son.  My Daughter swam for many years and was on the silver and red group at Cats before pursuing Volleyball.   My son is currently in the Green group and loves to swim.  I love coaching, teaching swimmers new skills, seeing them progress every practice, and develop a passion for the sport!  My hobbies outside of swimming are baking and decorating cakes, gardening, and being at the lake in Wisconsin with my family.

Amy Pellettieri

Assistant Silver Group Coach

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Amy is in her fifth year with CATS as an Assistant Senior Coach in the Gold Group.  Amy started her coaching career when she retired from swimming and became a Co-Head coach for the University of Illinois' Masters Swim Team.  Amy swam competitively for close to 14 years and still enjoys to swim today. 
She spent many years dedicated to the sport and enjoys sharing her strong passion as a coach.  Amy graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009 with a Masters in Special Education and a Bachelors in Early Childhood Special Education. 
Along with coaching, Amy is an Early Childhood Special Education teacher with the Fremont School District #79.

Doreen Lemke

Green Group Coach

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SWIMMING EXPERIENCE:
* North Suburban YMCA/ Northbrook Park District AAU – Age group swimmer ( Age 10-18); Glenbrook North -4 year Varsity /State swimmer, All-American, All- State team; University of Wisconsin La Crosse – 6 times NCAA/WWIAC: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze, All American, All State; Post College:   *9 Time YMCA National Champion qualifier:   3 Gold, - National Titles (Also:  2 Silver, 3 Bronze, 5th place); 7 time United States 1st place award winner for Illinois (USMS) National Champion, (Also:  3 Bronze,  1 fifth place finish); Chicago Triathlon – Olympic distance-  6 time finisher.
 
COACHING:
*New Trier: Assistant Boy’s Swimming Coach, Assistant Girl’s Swimming Coach and Assistant Girl’s Track Coach – 2 years; Hastings Lake YMCA:  Head Coach: Master’s Swimming– 4 years; Libertyville High School:  Learn To Swim Director – 10 years; CATS Assistant Coach 6 years.
 
Swimming has been one of my greatest gifts and to give that gift to another person is my greatest reward. Swimming is something that helps us learn about life. To win with a kind heart, to lose with grace and to understand that hard work and perseverance will teach us about being courageous and brave throughout our lives. It is an honor and privilege to share my experience and knowledge with our Cat's swimmers. To do what I love and to love what I do.
 

Patrick Costello

Assistant Purple and Blue Group Coach

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Coach Pat has been with the CATS Aquatic Team for the last six years.  Besides coaching CATS, he also coach for Vernon Hills High School with the boys and girls swim team and the boys water polo team.  Coach Pat currently teach in Gurnee at Woodland intermediate.  Recently he moved into the Vernon Hills area with his fiance and will be getting married in June.

Sammy Jo Mahler

Assistant Silver Coach

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Sammy Jo holds a B.S. in business and marketing with a minor in theater from Carthage College. This is Sammy Jo’s third year coaching with CATS working with the silver group. Sammy coached a little bit on and off after graduating college and was happy to find a home with CATS. She swam competitively for 13 years, retiring after college, and she still enjoys being around the water. Along with coaching here, Sammy Jo also coaches weightlifting and CrossFit in Arlington Heights and has a huge passion for the fitness industry. Outside of coaching Sammy Jo loves being active and lifting heavy things. She enjoys competing in various events and aspires to help people better their lives and reach their goals.  

Kedric Greenawalt

Orange Group Coach

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This year is my fourth year as the head girl’s swimming & diving coach at Vernon Hills.  My coaching experience began as an assistant volunteer coach with Warren Township HS, where I also coached the boy’s diving program for one season before coming over to district 128.  For four years prior to becoming the head girls’ coach here at Vernon Hills I was the assistant girl’s varsity, and JV head coach with Libertyville.  Aside from coaching girls swimming I spent five years as the head boys’ swimming and diving coach through the ‘09-10 season.  Over the past few years we have put Vernon Hills’ girls swimming on the map at the IHSA state meet by having multiple state qualifiers and look to continue that trend this year with our deepest team ever.  I have been coaching part time with CATs for 8 years as well.  I began coaching with the silver group in 2002, and then began coaching green/gold in 2005.