Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Jeff Arce Head Coach & Lead Titanium Group Coach

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 & Lead Platinum Group Coach

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 20 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 Age Group & Lead Gold Group Coach
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 20 years coaching experience.  He was the 13-18 Zone coach for Illinois in 2005 and 2009, and the Head Zones coach for Team Illinois 2013-2015.  
In 2005 he started Midway Aquatics, where he grew the club from 25 swimmers to 200, and developed repeated regional, age group state, central zone, and senior state qualifiers.  While at Midway he also was the Varsity Girls Head Coach of U-High Chicago, where he had state qualifiers and many team record holders.  
In 2012 he started Life Time Illinois Swim Team, and introduced the health club to the competitive world if Illinois Swimming.  
In 2014 Coach Mike joined CATS as a full time coach, and started working as the Libertyville Boys Varsity Head Coach.  As the LHS varsity coach the team won sectionals and qualified all three relays for state each year, along with the individual qualifying swims.  He is currently the LHS Girls and Boys Varsity Head Coach.
Coach Mike also served on the Illinois Swimming Board of Directors as Secretary, Coaches Representative and Senior Vice Chair.  Along with his love of coaching swimming, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, wake boarding, snowboarding, and spending time with his family.
Barbara Cunningham Lead Bronze Group Coach

Barb started Coaching at CATS in the fall of 2015. She is the Lead C oach for 9 & Unders, and is an ASCA Level 2 Certified Swim Coach, with an 8 and Under specialty.  She has a Elementary Ed degree from Bradley University.  She started her swimming life when her and her husband owned their own Swim America Swim Lesson program for 5 years.  Once they decided to close the business, she worked at Goldfish Swim School for a year, before she started her coaching life here.  Her family is a bit of a swimming family.  Her husband, MIke, also works at Cats as the Lead Coach of Gold and Head Age Group Coach.  They have 2 children.  Their Daughter swam for many years and was on Cats before pursuing Volleyball.   Their son is currently in the Platinum group and loves to swim.  She loves coaching, teaching swimmers new skills, seeing them progress every practice, and develop a passion for the sport!  Her hobbies outside of swimming are baking and decorating cakes, gardening, kayaking, and being at the lake in Wisconsin with her family.

Natalia Mechtcheriakova Assistant Silver Group Coach

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.

Sammy Jo Mahler Assistant Titanium Group Coach

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.  

Pat Costello Assistant Bronze & Gold Group Coach
Board of Directors
Jeff Arce Head Coach/President/CEO/Owner
Jennifer Williams Secretary
Vlad Pyshnenko Vice President