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Coaches

We are here to support your needs. If you have questions related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, or other swimming related needs, please contact your coach. For all questions related to administrative functions such as dues, safety, or policy issues, please contact one of the board members.

Coaching Staff

Kevin Nielsen

Head Coach, Senior Elite Coach

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Coach Kevin Nielsen has a rich tradition of working with National and Olympic level athletes and has over ten years of coaching experience.  In 2009 he began his coaching career as a volunteer Undergraduate Assistant Coach for the University of California, Berkeley Men’s swim & dive program.   Kevin was mentored by the Dave Durden, the 2020 Men’s Olympic Swimming Head Coach, and current UC Berkeley Men’s Head Coach, and Greg Meehan, the 2020 Women’s Olympic Swimming Head coach, the current Stanford Women’s Head Coach.  During that season, Kevin worked with over 8 Olympians and was the primary Butterfly coach.  In that season, the Cal Men’s team placed 2nd at the 2010 NCAA D1 championships, won 4 relay titles, along with two individual titles, which included Tom Shields winning the 100 butterfly, and Nathan Adrian winning the 100 freestyle.

In 2011, Kevin began coaching age-group swimmers with Class Aquatics under Steve Reardon’s guidance in Westlake Village, CA.  A couple of years later, he became the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Senior program, and in 2014 he was made the Associate Head Coach, and primary Senior Coach.  In his first year, he had an Olympic Trials qualifier, 3 Junior National qualifiers, and an 18-under Senior National Champion.

In the fall of 2015, Kevin was hired at the Canyons Aquatic Club as the Lead Coach for SRII, and Lead Coach for AGIII.  The former Head Coach, and the coach of Olympian Abbey Weitzel, Coley Stickels mentored Kevin which greatly influenced a creative and passionate coaching style.  Since joining the program, Kevin has coached US Open, Junior National, and Futures qualifiers.  The summer of 2017 he also served as the interim coach for the National group.

Some of Kevin’s athletic achievements include qualifying and competing at the 2012 United States Swimming Olympic Trials in the 50 free, and the 100 butterfly, and he also qualified for the 2016 Olympic trials in the 50 free.  In 2009, he was a finalist at the World Champ Trials in the 100 butterfly.

In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and golf and is also passionate about personal fitness.  Currently, he is working towards getting certified to become a personal trainer.

Sean Kakumu

General Manager

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Coach Sean Kakumu has coached and provided leadership for every important swimming organization in the City of Santa Clarita over the last decade. In 2012 Sean was brought onboard the Canyons staff by former Head Coach Jeff Conwell. Sean is currently the College of the Canyons (COC) Site Director and Swim School Director. At COC, Sean supervises all of the coaches and instructors and ensures that everyone on the staff is giving their very best; infusing his philosophy that swimmers are people first and every one of them has unlimited potential if they work for it. With Sean's efforts, the Swim School program has doubled in membership through a new comprehensive program and the hiring of qualified swim instructors. Before he was instructing age group swimmers, Sean coached the Senior 1 and Varsity groups, where he produced a multitude of Junior Olympic, Senior Development, and numerous Sectional cut swimmers. In 2012, Coach Sean was selected as the 13-14 Girls coach for the Southern California Swimming Pacific Coast All-Star Team in Santa Rosa. Since 2015, Sean has been on the staff for the North American Challenge cup; in 2017 Sean was the 17-18 Girls and Boys Coach in UC San Diego. Sean for the last two years has been the Southern California Swimming Coastal Committee Age Group Chair, providing direction for age group swimmers in the Coastal Committee. As of 2018, Sean was appointed to Open Water Chair for Southern California Swimming and was Meet Director for the 2018 Southern California Open Water Junior Olympics and 2018 USA Swimming Western Zones Championship.

When Sean is not with Canyons Aquatic Club, he holds the position of Adjunct Professor of Kinesiology and leads the successful College of the Canyons Cougar Swim & Dive team as Head Coach. Starting his era in 2012, Coach Sean implemented a modern and unique program never before seen at College of the Canyons, or their competitors, in the team’s four-decade-long history. Over the last six seasons the program has set 43 new school records and claimed 11 individual Western State Conference championships, 14 California Community College Athletic Association State qualifiers, Junior National level swimmers, four medley conference championships, and produced five CCCAA state finalists, six All-American relay teams, six All-American Individuals, one WSC Men’s Swimmer of the Year, one CCCAA Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and one on the 2-year College National Rankings. Climbing the Western State Conference ranks, College of the Canyons Swim & Dive program has achieved unprecedented success in the pool, both in team and individual competition.

Before taking his position with Canyons, Sean served as Pool Manager with the City of Santa Clarita. During his 16 years with the City of Santa Clarita, Sean has overseen and supervised multiple city swim teams, trained and mentored city swim team coaches and meet support staff, initiated the creation of swim meet events for 5-6-year-olds, and currently still trains the staff in and helps run swim meet timing equipment and video scoreboard design. Aside from the swim team, Sean oversaw, directed, and influenced thousands of swim lessons at his facilities. Being a natural competitor, he wanted his swim lessons to be the best taught, have the most fun, and be the most professional out of all other city lessons. Sean still helps trains and educates city swim team coaches, provides technical assistance and provides administration for city swim teams.

Personally, Coach Sean has been waterlogged his whole life. Starting at Canyons Aquatic Club in 1989, Sean swam his way to the Senior group at the age of 12 and worked under former Head Coach Bruce Patmos. During this time he swam for Hart High School as a varsity member for four years, finishing his high school career winning a CIF Championship with his team. In 2002 he went off to swim for Division I University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Sean graduated from Hart High School in 2002 to study Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, earning multiple Dean’s List awards and leading the student body as President. Graduating in 2006, he went on to the University of Southern California (Fight On!) to earn his Masters in Architecture with a specialty in building systems and materials application.  

In his off time, Sean is an avid reader and writer, designer of everything, furniture maker, traveler, and attends multiple sporting events including USC football.

Mike Bechtholdt

Head Age Group Coach/JOII Coach

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Coach Mike is an ASCA Level 4 coach with an excellent record of advancing swimmers to their next level of competition. Swimmers under Mike's guidance have achieved Junior National, National and Olympic Trial qualifying time standards. Mike has had swimmers go on to become professional athletes, Olympic Team members, and Olympic medalists.
 
Before coming to Canyons, Mike commuted from the SCV to Pacific Palisades where he coached at Westside Aquatics from March, 2014 to May, 2018.   While at Westside, Mike helped his swimmers reach their goals of competing in college, and Westside swimmers reached the National, Junior National, Futures, and Sectional levels under his guidance.  Before joining Westside Aquatics, Coach Mike served at Canyons for over ten years, working with the senior level swimmers. During that time, he also had a 5-year stint as the Head Coach at Valencia High School, which culminated in the team's 25th (boys) and and 31st (girls) places nationally. Prior to joining Canyons, Mike was the head coach at Riverton High School, where he coached the Riverton Aquatic Team and was selected as the North 4A Coach of the Year. Before coaching, Mike was a collegiate swimmer at the University of Wyoming, and he swam in high school at Cheyenne East.
 
Mike has also been part of the North American Challenge Cup coaching staff for the 2008 and 2007 seasons as well as Pacific Coast All Star Coaching Staff and Southern California Zone Coaching Staff. He has also been invited to travel as a "host" coach to the Olympic training center with his athletes for both the Diversity Select Camp and the Junior National Select Camp.
 
Mike's supportive wife is excited that he is working again for Canyons who threw her a great baby shower for their only daughter Francesca, now five.  Francesca is also excited that dad will be closer to home.

Mikaela Kristine Smith

Swim School Director/JOI Coach

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Born and raised in the Santa Clarita Valley, Coach Mikaela Smith, began swimming at the age of 7 with Canyon Aquatics. She swam all 4 years at Valencia High School and set the 50 Fly record sophomore year. She was also a part of the 200 Medley Relay Team that set the record. She has 9 years of coaching experience with kids ages 4-17. She coached for Paseo Aquatics Swim Team, where she took multiple groups to Jr. Olympics and Far Western Championships. Mikaela has also been a LA County Lake Lifeguard since 2008. During the past eight years she has been very active in the Castaic Lake Jr. Lifeguard program and was promoted to Coordinator of the program inSummer 2016. 

Whitney Cox

Assistant Coach/Office Associate

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Coach Whitney has lived in Santa Clarita her entire life; she has grown up in this community. Before swimming, Coach Whitney was a bowler for ten years. She participated in state and city-wide tournaments and leagues. One of her teammates was the captain of The Saugus swim team and convinced her to join before her freshman year started. Whitney started swimming from the very bottom at 14; she worked her way up during the next four years of high school from a swimmer who got placed only in D relays, to a 100 backstroke and 500 freestyle swimmer. During her junior year, she swam with Canyons under coach Mike. Coach Whitney knew since her senior year that she wanted to be involved with coaching somehow, and was given the opportunity in October 2015 when an old friend offered a spot coaching with Golden Valley. Now as a coach for the last five years she has been the head coach of Golden Valley High School since 2016. She was brought on to Canyons by Sean Gucciardi in February 2018. Since that time Coach Whitney has worked closely with JO3, Senior 1, JO1, and JO2.

Erik Johnson

Senior Varsity, AGIII Coach

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Erik began his competitive swim career at age five, joining the Canyons Aquatic Club at age nine. Continuing with the club he also swam with Valencia High School's Varsity team for four years, where Erik attended CIF his senior year in the 100-yard Backstroke. While he began swimming at Linfield college, he decided to focus entirely on academics, leaving the word of swimming behind and instead began to accrue additional athletic experiences. His experiences through Japanese Jiu Jitsu, traditional Kung Fu, Yoga, and Muay Thai, have greatly influenced his approach to coaching and dryland. Graduating with degrees in Psychology and Studio Art, Erik returned home well equipped for his eventual reunion with the swimming world.

Erik worked for the City of Santa Clarita for nine years, holding positions up to Assistant manager, where he further developed his skills in teaching through swim lessons, and other aquatic programs. Through his time there he was reintroduced to the Canyons Aquatic Club and began volunteering via weekly dryland sessions for the senior groups with coach Coley Stickels and Sean Kakumu's groups for three years. Erik is currently employed with the club and is enjoying being back in the swim community.

Outside of the pool Erik can be found in the gym training Powerlifting and Strongman or cooking while watching his favorite sport, Sumo.

Tim Lim

Pre-Team/AG1 Coach

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Coach Tim started out swimming through Canyons Aquatic Club in 2009. Eventually ended up with Coach Kevin Nielsen in SRII, as well as swimming for Saugus High School. Tim was a part of the CIF runner up 200 Freestyle and 400 Freestyle relays at Saugus in 2017. Swam for Colorado Mesa for the 2017-2018 year before coming back home to College of the Canyons. 

He is currently pursuing a career in education through College of the Canyons, with a concentration in English. Coach Tim served as an assistant coach at Saugus High school for the 2018-2019 year under Jim Klipfel and Krista Botton. 

As a coach at Canyons Aquatic Club, he hopes to guide swimmers in reaching their personal goals in and out of the pool.

Chris Mcelroy

Senior Elite Assistant Coach

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Coach Chris McElroy is the Senior 1 and AG3 coach for Canyons Aquatics. Growing up in Orange County, he has swum his entire life with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, culminating with his high schools years training on the National Team under Coach Bill Rose. Directly after graduating, he joined the coaching staff and proceeded to coach the next two years under Coach Mark Schubert and Coach Bill Voigt. After transferring to Cal State University Northridge, he moved to Los Angeles and is now continuing his career as a Canyons Aquatics coach. Coach Chris is a junior in college at CSUN, and studies film music composition with the hopes of one day writing blockbuster soundtracks. In his free time, he enjoys both writing classical literature and playing classical piano works. He hopes to provide all of his athletes with the desire to reach their individual potential in the sport of swimming. 

Chris Rogers

Senior Development/Senior I Coach

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Coach Chris brings a history of success at all age group and ability levels.  Chris is joining us after working with Team Elite-San Diego (assistant coach 2018-2019), University of California, Berkeley Men’s Team (volunteer assistant 2017-2018), and The Olympic Club (Junior Aquatics manager 2012-2017).  During that time, Chris worked with World Record holders Ryan Murphy, Kathleen Baker and Irie Ryosuke, 5 other American Olympians and 2 International Olympians.  Over his years of coaching, Chris has also worked directly with 13 members of the USA National Team and also coached at 2 USA National Team Camps at the US Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs and Chula Vista.       
 
Chris draws his inspiration from the many mentors he was fortunate enough to coach with over the years.  At Team Elite he coached alongside the 2016 Olympic Women’s head coach David Marsh, and at Cal he coached with 2020 Olympic Team Men’s head coach David Durden. While at these two programs, Chris worked with a wide variety of swimmers, ranging from stroke specialists to distance swimmers, along with a large group of international athletes.  Under the tutelage of Marsh and Durden, Chris gained experience coaching the full spectrum of athletes and is excited to bring that experience to the club level.
 
Prior to graduating UC Berkeley in 2013, Chris began coaching a local team in San Francisco, The Olympic Club.  There he worked with developing athletes of all ages, and worked primarily with the Senior group.  In a few short years, the team went from a single Far Westerns qualified swimmer to 2 Junior National qualifiers, 5 Futures qualifiers, 13 Sectional qualifiers, and with over 20 qualifiers for Far Westerns.
 
Some of Chris’ athletic achievements include, competing in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials in the 100m and 200m backstroke, participating on 2 winning NCAA DI National Championship title teams with the Men’s Cal Berkeley team in 2011 and 2012, achieving Pac-10 Academic Honorable Mention in 2011, and representing the USA at the World Youth Championship in Monterey, Mexico in 2008. 
In his free time Chris likes hiking and fishing, and whenever possible getting in the ocean for a swim.

Emilio Santoyo

Pre-Team/AG1 Coach

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Coach Emilio will be coaching our Pre-Team Group. Coach Emilio started his swim career at Canyons Aquatics Club twelve years ago in our swim lesson program.  He then swam his way to our Senior Elite program, racing at a national level. He was also a member of the Hart High School Swim Team where he swam varsity all four years and finished as a captain for the team. Currently, Coach Emilio is attending College of the Canyons, studying in Fire Technology and building towards a career as a firefighter. He is also a member of the COC Cougars swim team, coached under Coach Kakumu, and making it to the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship in San Jose in 2019. Coach Emilio's goals for coaching is to help his swimmers strive to meet their full potential in the water. 

Courtney L Skelley

AG2/Masters Coach

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Courtney Skelley is Canyons Aquatic Club latest swimmer to come back to the club as a coach in our Age Group program. She is looking to make a positive and fun experience for all of her swimmers with Canyons.

Courtney began her affinity for the water at the age of seven. Courtney started to swim for Canyons at the age of ten, eventually reaching Coach Jay in the Junior Olympic group. Finding success, she found the pinnacle of Canyons swimming with then Head Coach Coley Stickels in the Senior 3 National group.

Graduating Saugus High School in 2016, she continued to swim at Indiana State University, producing results for the school as a finalist in the 100/200 butterfly and 200 freestyle in their Missouri Valley Conference Championship.

Coming back to California in 2017, Courtney will continue her education at College of the Canyons and swimming for the Cougar Swim & Dive Team under Head Coach Sean Kakumu. 

Autumn Wyatt

Assistant AG3/Senior Varsity Coach

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Coach Autumn began her swimming career at the age of seven as a synchronized swimmer. Throughout her years, she placed first in many citywide and countywide synchronized swimming competitions. Once she made it to high school, she joined the Canyon High School swim team. Starting her sophomore year, she joined Canyons Aquatics and swam under coach Mike. She was able to gain the knowledge and speed to make it to CIF in the 200 Free relay and 400 Free relay her junior and senior year.
 
She graduated with a degree in studio art and digital art from Chapman University. Soon after graduation, she got a job as an art teacher and worked as a teacher for the past two years. 
 
Autumn never moved far from the pool; however, she has worked for the City of Santa Clarita for the past eight years as a lifeguard where she gained experience as a synchronized swim coach and swim lesson instructor. She is currently the new Head Swimming Coach for Canyon High School and is excited to share her passion for swimming with all her swimmers.