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We are here to support your needs. If your questions are related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, and other swimming related needs, please contact one of the coaches. For all administrative questions, such as dues, safety, or policy issues, please contact Coach Heath.

Coaching Staff

Heath Edwards

Coach

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HEACOACH/TEAM OWNER

Coach Heath, SC Swimming's 2017 and 2018 Swim Coach of the Year, was born and raised in Columbia, SC. He began swimming year-round in high school and had a very successful age group swimming career. In his junior year at Irmo High School, Heath won Junior Nationals in 200 fly and finished top two in the country in two other events. 

After graduating from Irmo, Heath began his college swimming and academic career at the University of Georgia (UGA). Coach Heath had a very decorated swimming career at UGA, collecting 14 All-American Honors, Academic All-American Honors, an SEC Championship Title in the 200 Fly and the UGA record in the 200 Fly. His team awards included the Hardest Worker Award, Most Improved Award, and the Jeff Poppell Award, given to one senior whose “career achievements and leadership qualities set him apart from his teammates and peers.” 

Between Heath’s junior and senior year at UGA, he took two years off to serve a full time mission for his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After returning to UGA from his two year hiatus, Heath was voted Team Captain and led his team to a national placement at the NCAA Swimming Championships. 

Coach Heath started Palmetto Aquatics in 2001, and he has developed it into one of the strongest swim programs in South Carolina. Coach Heath has coached swimmers at all levels, from Novice all the way through Nationa ls.  He has had seven swimmers compete at Junior Nationals; two swimmers at Senior Nationals; 42 PALM swimmers have held Age Group State Championship titles; 62 PALM swimmers have received All-State awards.  Coach Heath has also had 40 swimmers go on to swim at the college level.  

Heath has three beautiful boys, Emerson, Tanner, and Sawyer, and is married to his best friend, Kim.

 

Jennifer McLeod

Assistant Coach - USC

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Jennifer McLeod Crady grew up swimming and coaching for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, in Mission Viejo, California. She was a competitive swimmer with the Nadadores from 1981-2005 and the University of Cincinnati from 1993-1998. While a member of the Nadadores, Jennifer was a National Qualifier in the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle. She was also a member of the US Open Water National Team, representing the US at the Pre-World Championships, and was a National Champion in the 15K. Jennifer was named an All-American by US swimming for six years. While at the University of Cincinnati, she was a two-time Conference Swimmer of the Year and a three-time MVP.

Jennifer was a member of the seasonal coaching staff with the Nadadores from 1993-2007. She also served as a graduate assistant coach with the University of South Carolina Men’s Swim Team in 1998-1999. She served as a coach at Hammond School from 1998-2001. She was an assistant swim coach at Ridge View High School from 2003-2008. Most recently, Jennifer coached for the Jeep Rogers Family YMCA (2007- 2013) and coached Golden Hills Golf Country Club this past summer.

Jennifer attended the University of Cincinnati, with a double major in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy, and attended the University of South Carolina earning a Master’s of Art in Teaching (Earth Science) and a Masters of Earth of Environmental Resource Management. She is currently a Lead Teacher at Ridge View High School. Jennifer is married to Jerry Crady.

Johnna Edwards

Assistant Coach - Harbison

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Coach Johnna grew up in the Greenville, SC area, where she swam for the Pebble Creek summer league swim team for 12 years and held the 13/14 girls 50 breaststroke team record.  She swam for Team Greenville for five years, competed at SC short course state meet twice, and she also swam for Wade Hampton High School for two years.  Coach Johnna excelled at the 50 and 100 breaststroke; 50 and 100 backstroke; and 100 and 200 IM.  She made it to the finals at the Palmetto Championships and was the 1st place winner of both the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke.  

Since age 16, Coach Johnna has coached a variety of different swim teams including: one year at Pebble Creek Swim Team; four years with  PMP Swim Team in Greenville; one year with Myrtle Beach High School; eight years with White Knoll High School; six years with Country Club of Lexington; six years with Silver Seals Special Olympics Swim Team; and seven years with Palmetto Aquatics.  Johnna has experience coaching 2 to 18-year-olds, and she loves to learn and grow as a swim coach and hopes to coach for many years to come!  

Some of her most memorable coaching moments were: Taking her Myrtle Beach team to 3A State at Clemson University; every win for CCL at City Meet; Weston Manning’s qualifying to go to Age Group Sectionals in the mile at State Meet; taking Lara Federspiel and Ben Warren to 5A State Meet; both years that she got to go to Age Group Sectionals; and hearing her newborn nephew’s first cry through a text message while she was at finals of the Augusta swim meet two years ago.

Coach Johnna holds a  Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Mathematics, and a Masters of Arts in Teaching. She is currently a teacher in the Lexington 1 School District.  During her free time, Johnna enjoys traveling, eating out, watching movies and shopping.  

Zia Layton

Assistant Coach - Harbison

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My name is Alexandria Layton, but my nickname is Zia. I grew up swimming at Harbison Recreation Center from age 5 to 15. I went to Irmo High School and swam on Irmo High’s swim team and then attended the University of South Carolina where I received a bachelor's degree in Sports and Entertainment Management. After college, I moved to Florida to work at Disney World as a character attendant in entertainment.  I was a Palmetto Aquatics coach from October 2001 until March 2005. Ever since I was little,I have always loved swimming and I want to share that passion with others. As a swim coach, I plan to encourage swimmers to be the best they can be and want to make a difference in their lives.

Stephen Bendziewicz

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach  Stephen  has been coaching for Palmetto Aquatics since 2016. He grew up here in Columbia, SC, where he swam for Palmetto for 12 years and also swam for the Murraywood summer league team. Stephen was a fast 8 and under swimmer and continues to hold the Murraywood boys 8 and under 25 freestyle record.  Stephen also held the PALM 50 freestyle record for a couple of years as a young swimmer, too, and qualified for Age Group Sectionals twice.  A highlight of his swimming career was qualifying for Senior Sectionals on the last day of State Meet, in a Time Trial, the last possible opportunity to qualify!   A graduate of Wofford with a B.S. in Biology, Stephen is presently pursuing his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at USC.  He   is very thankful for his years of   swimming for PALM, where he met his fiance Laura Ann Dixon. One of Stephen's Most Memorable Moments as a swim coach was getting multiple Fledgeling swimmers to put their faces in the water for the first time, and to stop crying while doing so. On a free weekend, when not studying, Stephen likes to relax, which includes studying languages (Arabic and Spanish).  

 

Kim Gould

Assistant Coach - USC

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Palmetto Aquatics is thrilled to have Coach Kim Gould as a member of the coaching staff!  Coach Kim began her swimming career in the seventh grade at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania.  After a successful high school swimming career Coach Kim first began coaching by developing a summer league team and working as an assistant coach for Emmaus Aquatic Club.  She swam one year in college at Shippensburg University and then transferred to Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. 

After working as a pharmacist for a number of years and raising her three darling children, Coach Kim returned to coaching at Blythewood High School for five years. Since that time Coach Kim has been coaching year-round in the Columbia area, joining the PALM Staff in September of 2016.  Two of her children, Ashleigh and Maddie followed their mom’s footsteps by choosing swimming as their sport. Coach Kim is also the head coach of AC Flora High School.

Jan Thompson

Team Manager

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Coach Thompson grew up in Montreal, Canada, and started swimming at age nine for the Pointe Claire Swim Club. She improved rapidly in sprint freestyle and butterfly, and at the age of 12, was the youngest female to ever qualify for Senior Nationals.  She represented Quebec and Canada at international competitions; competed at the 1980 and 1984 Canadian Olympic Trials (missing making the team by .07 in 100 freestyle); and swam at numerous summer and winter Senior Nationals. She was then recruited to swim on a full athletic scholarship for the South Carolina Gamecocks (1981-1985),  where she was an NCAA All-American.

After retiring from swimming, Coach Thompson began competing in triathlons and started giving private swimming lessons to children and triathletes. She completed a journalism internship at the United States Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs, and then graduated from USC in 1986, with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications, with a focus on editing; and with a French minor. She began her coaching career in 1986, as an Assistant with Gamecock Aquatics, helping coach the age group and masters teams.  In 1987, when the Olympic Committee added 50 freestyle to the Olympic events list, Coach Thompson took a break from coaching, to train for the 1988 Olympic Trials.  Later in 1987, Coach Thompson married triathlete Randy Thompson and within a few months, the couple found out they were unexpectedly (but with much joy) expecting a baby. So, Coach Thompson stopped training for the Trials and resumed coaching Gamecock Aquatics, until 1990, when she gave birth to their second child. She then stopped coaching for a few years, to raise and home school their children: Daniel, Leanne and Mark.

In 1997, Coach Thompson took over the Head Coach position for four years at Columbia Country Club, where she coached and managed a summer team of 110 swimmers. In 2001, the Thompson family followed God's leading to serve in missions, and they moved to Cambodia, in Southeast Asia, where they helped start churches in a rural area, helped with an orphan ministry and helped with medical needs. Returning to the states in 2005, to care for a relative with cancer, Coach Thompson resumed her private lessons business and resumed triathlon training and swim coaching. From 2006-2012, she was Head Coach of the newly-formed Drew Sharks, a small year round City of Columbia swim team at the Drew Wellness Center. During the summers of 2012 and 2013, Coach Thompson was Head Coach of Forest Lake Club, coaching and managing a team of 165 swimmers.  In 2006, she became Head Coach of Hammond School Varsity Swim Team, just completing her 12th season, where she has led the girls team to several State Runners-Up finishes, two State Championship finishes, and several individual boys and girls State Championionships. 

Coach Thompson loves kids, loves the sport of swimming and has loved every swimmer and team that she's coached and managed. She is eager for this opportunity to help Coach Heath with the management of Palmetto Aquatics Swim Team, and is happy to be a part of the PALM Family!

 

Alec Rutkowski

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Alec started swimming summer league when he was just four years old, first for Gardendale and then for Quail Valley.  He swam for Palmetto Aquatics from age 8 to 18 and  swam while a freshman at the College of Charleston, before transferring to USC  during his sophomore year to swim for the Gamecocks. Alex specialized in 200 IM and 400 IM and  still holds a couple of PALM records.  During his swimming career, he competed at Age Group Sectionals, Senior Sectionals and Zones, and as a college swimmer he competed at conference championships.  

Alec started coaching for Palmetto in 2016, and he has also helped coach the Quail Valley summer team for seven years.  He enjoys watching each swimmer grow and progess over the summers at Quail Valley and loves seeing the success of all the hard work when it pays off at the end of each season at the Columbia Swim Leauge City Meet Championships.

Alec is a senior at USC, pursuing a degree in Physical Education.  In his free time, he loves to spend time at the lake with friends and family, and he is a big University of South Carolina football fan.    As a former swimmer, and now a coach at Palmetto Aquatics, Alec believes there is no better team and family to learn, compete and enjoy the sport of swimming with, than PALM! 

Laine Huggins

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Laine started swimming summer league for Murraywood when she was six years old, then at age eight she started swimming competitively for Palmetto Aquatics.  Her best events were 50 free and 100 free and during her swimming career she qualified for State Meet, Age Group Sectionals and Senior Sectionals.   The friendships she made during her swimming career are some of the closest friends she has, and as a coach of the younger swimmers, she especiallly enjoys watching them have fun and make new friends themselves.  Coach Laine has coached Palmetto Aquatics since 2013, while pursuing a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in counseling from the University of South Carolina. She is now studying for her Masters in Clinical Mental Heath Counseling at Columbia International University.  When she has free time, Laine enjoys going on walks and enjoys visiting unique coffee shops with friends.  

Wes Watts, Sr.

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Wes grew up in the Irmo area, where he was an accomplished swimmer.  He was a 4-time Junior National Qualifier in 50 Free and 100 Free, and he attended the Citadel on a full swimming scholarship, where he was awarded All Southern Conference honors. 

Wes coached Irmo High School Swimming from 1999-2001. During his tenure at Irmo, the girls team won the 1999 State Championship and were runners-up in 2000. He again coached Irmo HS In 2013 and 2014, and the girls won the Region IV State Championship in 2013.  He also has coaching experience with summer recreational teams at Snee Farm and Country Club of Charleston.

Wes has a B.S. degree in Physical Education from the Citadel, and he is a National Board Certified teacher at the Lexington District Five Center for Advanced Technical Studies.  He is married and has one son who swims for Palmetto Aquatics.  Wes enjoys fishing and spending time with his family.

Madison Pritchard

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Madison started swimming summer league when she was 7 years old and began year round swimming at age 9. As an age group swimmer she swam for the North Florida Swimming in Jacksonville, Florida. Her freshman year of high school she swam for the Baylor School in Chaftanooga, Tennessee, where she was a member ot Swimming World's High School National Champions in the school year of 2011-2012. After her family moved back to Florida, Madison swam for the Bolles School Sharks for both year round and high school swimming, and her high school team won State each year.  Madison favorite events were 100 breast, 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle and she came to Columbia in 2015, to swim for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.  Some of the highlights of her swimming career were getting to be a member of such prestigious high school programs that allowed her to call four future Olympians her teammates (Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Santo Condorelli), and watching all of their swimming success.  

 For the past five summers, Madison has taught swimming lessons alongside of the lady who taught her how to swim when she was a little girl. She really enjoys watching the swimmers she teaches gain confidence and progress in their swimming skills.  Madison is pursuing a double major at USC in International Business and Marketing, and double minoring in Spanish and Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with friends/family, and enjoys cooking and traveling.  

Eleanor Mooney

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Eleanor swam for five years at Wildcat Aquatics, another four years for Bryan Station High School, and thirteen for Hartland, her summer league swim team. A three time High School State qualifier, she specialized in breastroke and has been coaching with Palmetto since the winter of 2015. Eleanor is a sophomore at USC, double-majoring in International Studies and Spanish and minoring in English.

She loves ice cream and running. This summer she will be running with the 4K Ulman Cancer Fund across the States to raise awareness and support for young-adult cancer victims and survivors, and their families. Coach Eleanor works primarily with the Blue group at USC.

 

David Munn-Carstensen

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach David has lived in Columbia his entire life and swam summer league for the Jewish Community Center (JCC).  He swam for Dreher High School and competed in 100 breaststroke at high school State Championships each year with a top-5 finish one year.  David also swam for Palmetto Aquatics for six years and is currently a sophomore at University of South Carolina where he is double majoring in Math and English.  He enjoys coaching the Fledgling group for Palmetto and is very happy to still be a part of the team!  In his spare time, David enjoys reading and he also likes to play soccer whenever he gets the chance.  

Olivia Rasbornik

Assistant Coach - Harbison

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Coach Olivia started swimming summer league in Charlotte, NC, when she was just four years old. She joined Swim-MAC when she was 10, swimming year round for MAC for four years before switching to the local YMCA team in 2012. From 2012-2016, she was a Senior State Qualifier in 100 fly and 200 IM, and she also just missed making YMCA Nationals by 0.27. Olivia has held her YMCA team's girls 100 fly record since 2012, and she also swam for her high school team Pine Lake Prep, helping her team win  the 1A/2A State Championship during her senior year.   Olivia swam for the YMCA until she left for college in 2016. She is studying at the University of South Carolina where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health with a minor in Nutrition.  

Olivia helped coach her summer league team 2012-2017 and was also a volunteer for the Lowe's YMCA Penguins 2013-2014.  Her favorite coaching memory was when one of her favorite 5-year-olds won his first 25 freestyle race.  Oliva loves spending time with her Carolina Crossfit family, and she loves coaching her Fledgelings group!

McKenna Cassella

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach McKenna has lived in Lexington, SC, all of her life.  She swam for the Quail Hollow summer league swim team for 11 years and is now the Head Coach. McKenna swam for Palmetto Aquatics from age 8-18; her best stroke was butterfly and her favorite event was the 200 fly. She qualified for Age Group Sectionals several years, and in 2014, she placed 3rd in 200 butterfly at the Long Course State Championships. During her senior year of high school, McKenna won the bronze medal in 100 butterfly at the 3A High School State Championships. McKenna is now enjoying being an Assistant Coach for PALM, and in the fall of 2018, she is planning to help coach the Brookland-Cayce High School Swim Team.  McKenna is a freshman at the University of South Carolina pursuing a degree in Public Health.  In her free time, she enjoys hiking and reading.  One of her favorite swimming memories was the High Point meet when all the swimmers dressed up as Disney characters.  

Mickey Fennell

Assistant Coach - USC

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Coach Mickey started swimming when he was five years old and swam until his senior year at  Stratford High School in Goose Creek, SC. During his swimming career, Mickey competed at Zones, Age Group State Championships and High School State Championships.  His best events were 100 and 200 freestyle, and he held his high school's 100 backstroke record until it was recently broken.  Mickey also swam summer league for Coosaw Creek and he also helped coach that team, too, before joining the Palmetto Aquatics staff.  Mickey is studying Finance and Economics at USC, and in his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball and video games.  Mickey coaches the Fledglings for Palmetto Aquatics, and he really enjoys seeing the swimmers that he coaches improve and progress in their skills.  

Kerry Loggins

Assistant Coach

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Coach Kerry grew up here in Columbia, SC, and she started swimming summer league at age four with Rockbridge Club.  She also swam for two years for AC Flora High School and qualified for State in 50 and 100 freestyle, and 100 breaststroke, in which she placed 5th at State.  Coach Kerry was a volunteer coach from age 14 to 18 for Rockbridge, and she has also been a summer lessons instructor for Palmetto Aquatics.  

One of Coach Kerry's swimming highlights was qualifying for state as an AC Flora freshman.  One of her coaching highlights is seeing the progress the young children she's taught lessons to have made, from struggling to learn to put their faces into the water to successfully swimming many laps of the pool!  As a coach for Palmetto Aquatics, Coach Kerry is helping with the Fledgling and Blue Group at USC pool.  

Coach Kerry is a freshman pursuing a nursing degree at the University of South Carolina.  She says that the experience she has had coaching children has helped her realize that she would like to work with children, in her future nursing profession.  During her free time, Kerry enjoys baking, traveling, playing with her dogs, and spending time at the lake with friends.