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Coaching Staff

Kevin Nielsen

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 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, 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 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.

Chris Rogers

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 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.

Mikaela Kristine Smith

PreTeam/JO1 Coach


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. 

Erik Johnson

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 sport, Sumo.

Courtney L Skelley

AG3/SRV Coach


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


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

AG1/AG2 Coach


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 Trials. 

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 Championships.

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.

Emilio Santoyo

Assistant Coach


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.