Head Coach, Senior Elite Coach
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
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.
General Manager, Masters Head Coach
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
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
In his off time, Sean
is an avid reader and writer, designer of everything, furniture
maker, traveler, and attends multiple sporting events including USC
Head AG, SRD, SR1 Coach
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
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
In his free time Chris
likes hiking and fishing, and whenever possible getting in the
ocean for a swim.
Mikaela Kristine Smith
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.
Senior Varsity, AGIII Coach
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
Courtney L Skelley
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.
Assistant AG3/Senior Varsity Coach
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.
Kearsten Livingstone began swimming competitively at six years
old in Canada. When her family relocated back to her hometown of
Santa Clarita, she joined Canyons Aquatic Club from the age of 9
until she attended Cal Berkley in 2010. A highly competitive
swimmer, Kearsten held or holds numerous Canyons individual and
relay records. An elite competitor, she was a member of Canyons
National Team, Southern California Swimming's Zone Team, and
Olympic Trial qualifier. Also, she represented Canyons at Junior
Nationals, Nationals, US Open, and World Championships
Kearsten attended Canyon high school, where she set and still
holds several school records. While representing Canyon High
School, she won several Foothill finals and finished in the top 8
all four years at CIF Championships in both the 100 fly and 100
back. Upon graduation, Kearsten accepted a scholarship to swim for
Cal Berkley, where she was part of the team that won two national
championship titles in 2011 and 2012 as well as two PAC 12
After graduation, Kearsten returned to Santa Clarita, where she
is working on her master's degree in Social and Emotional Learning
while teaching high school at Opportunities For Learning. In 2018,
she returned to the pool, this time as the head coach at West Ranch
High School. Under her guidance, the 2018 Wildcats won their first
league title in school history and she was selected as Swim Coach
of the year by the Daily News. She continues to coach West Ranch in
addition to her coaching at Canyons Aquatic.
Kearsten draws upon her years of experience as a competitive
swimmer who came up through the age-group ranks to train and
compete at the nation's highest levels. Much of what Kearsten
brings to the deck are the lessons learned from several of Canyon's
successful past coaches as well as four years of training under
CAL's Terri Mckeever, one of the most successful college/Olympic
coaches in the nation.
Here at Canyons, Kearsten believes all our swimmers have the
same unlimited potential and if they dedicate themselves to train
hard, she will coach them to draw upon that motivation, help them
achieve their goals, and then exceed them.
Coach Emilio started his swim career at Canyons Aquatics Club
thirteen 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 firefighter
career. Coach Emilio recently returned from his seasonal job as a
Wildland Firefighter with the Bureau of Land and Management, where
he spent this past summer traveling throughout the nation
conducting fire suppression operations with the helitack crew and
engine crews out of his station in Apple Valley. He is also a
member of the COC Cougars swim team, coached under Coach Kakumu.
Coach Emilio's goals for coaching is to help his swimmers strive to
meet their full potential in the water.