For the first time in 43 years, the University of Rhode Island Women’s Swimming and Diving team will be under new management with new Head Coach Lilli Deering beginning her first year at the helm for Rhody.
Former Head Coach Mick Weskott has been an important piece of the swimming and diving program for nearly 50 years and will continue to do so, now as the associate head coach position in order to help Deering with the transition. Weskott had a combined 541 career victories between his work with the men’s team before it was disbanded in 2008 (349 wins) and the women (191 wins).
Deering has been on Westkott’s staff for the last five seasons, including two as his assistant and recruiting coordinator. She also swam for the Rams in her college days; Deering was a four-time Atlantic 10 All-Conference swimmer and was the most outstanding performer in the conference in 2010. She is still the school’s record holder in the 200- and 400-yard individual medley races.
Westkott is the longest tenured coach within URI athletics and has been successful over the years. Despite this, Deering doesn’t feel the pressure and is excited to assume the role of the person that helped throughout her own college career.
“It is an honor to step into the role of head coach and fill the shoes of my old coach,” Deering said. “So far, it has been a good start for me and for the team.”
Deering has already made plenty of moves as head coach, adding eight swimmers and one diver to the roster. These new additions come from all over the country, ranging from here in Rhode Island to Hawaii.
“While COVID-19 was crummy in a lot of ways, there were a lot of positives that came out of it from a recruiting standpoint,” Deering said. “We were able to connect with the swimmers and divers via Zoom often because we were all home, and it helped create strong connections earlier in the process.”
On top of that, Deering introduced new Assistant Coach Christo Law to the program. Law, an assistant coach at Bryant University last year, helped lead their women’s team to wins and third-place finishes in both the 1-meter and 3-meter five at the 2021 Northeast Conference championship and their men’s team to a sweep in both events. The addition of Law and numerous new squad members have been other changes made in the program.
Another key to making this transition effective has been Westkott’s continued involvement as an assistant coach.
“I think having Mick here to guide me through it has been huge,” Deering said. “I also think for the girls, it has been an easy change because we have both been here for a while.”
Deering is optimistic that these new additions as well as Westkott’s guidance will lead to a successful first season for her Rams who did not have a fall season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This last year has definitely shown us that we have to appreciate when we can be out here playing,” Deering said. “We are having a lot of fun and are just focused on growing as a team this year.”
Junior diver Marta Baumann shared that same sentiment and is looking forward to the season ahead with her new coaching staff.
“When I heard Coach Deering got the job, I was excited because she’s been a great part of the team since I have been here,” Baumann said. “The season has been a lot of fun and, as long as we keep working hard, it will be a great season.”
The Rams start their season on Saturday at Tootell Aquatic Center, where they will take on Springfield College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in their first dual meet. The first race is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.