Tribute highlights celebration of Wolf Pack students, athletically and academically.
Kusserow and Vieira
Pack gear gets fans a discount
Softball player, swimmer and cheer coach honored
Both will compete in three events at the championship
Abby Steketee enters her third season as the head coach of the Nevada swimming and diving team, having already established the Wolf Pack as contenders in the Mountain West in just two seasons.
A Danville, Va., native, Steketee was hired on July 3, 2012, and immediately set the program on an upward trajectory after exceeding expectations in her first two seasons. The Pack were selected eighth in the 2013 preseason coaches poll and earned a fifth-place finish in the Mountain West Championships. In 2014, Nevada was picked fifth in the preseason poll before battling to a third-place finish at the conference championships.
Under Steketee's tenure the past two seasons, Nevada has posted four dual wins each year, 15 student-athletes have earned All-Mountain West honors and 32 have earned MW Academic All-Conference honors, while the team has earned Scholar All-America honors for the past four semesters. Steketee has also helped guide two swimmers to the NCAA Championships; senior Mengjiao Mi (200, 500 and 16,650 freestyle) in 2012 and sophomore Yawen Li (200 beaststroke, 200 IM and 400 IM) in 2013.
In 2014, Nevada posted dual victories over Pacific, Fresno State, Cal State East Bay and rivals UNLV while aiming to peak at the Mountain West Championships. The Wolf Pack did exactly that, surprising the field with 507 points and a third-place showing to tally its highest-ever finish at the MW Championships.
Nevada tallied 11 top-three finishes at the MW championships, while receiving titles from Grace Huang in one-meter and platform diving, Yawen Li in the 200-yard breaststroke and 400-yard IM and Teresa Baerens in the 200-yard freestyle. Ten members of the team were selected to the MW All-Conference team. In addition, Li qualified to the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn., in the 200 breast, 200 IM and 400 IM. Huang also qualified for the NCAA Diving Championships, placing 16th in the three-meter to earn honorable mention All-America honors.
The Pack was 4-3 in dual meets in 2013 and Steketee saw Mengjaio Mi become the first Nevada swimmer to compete in three events at the NCAA Championships since 2008. Mi was the first Nevada swimmer to qualify for the event since 2009.
Individually, other Nevada swimmers dropped a significant amount of time off their best swims, achieving new personal bests in 2013. Two swimmers of note in this area are Michelle Forman and Nikki Longland. Before this season, Forman's best time in the 100-yard butterfly was 58.26 but she cut three seconds at the MW Championships to score in 55.24. Likewise, Forman stepped up on the 800 Free Relay and dropped 10 seconds off of her 200-yard freestyle time, going from 2:00.06 to 1:49.94. Longland's drop in the 400 IM was staggering, as the Sparks native improved her lifetime best from 5:04.73 to 4:22.71 at the conference event.
In total, 45 of 54 individual races at the conference championships were lifetime records. On the season, 21 swimmers achieved lifetime records - often in multiple events.
Steketee came to Nevada after spending the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams at the University of South Carolina. She worked with the individual medley and stroke groups and also served as the team liaison with academic services. During her time with the Gamecocks, Steketee helped coach one SEC individual champion, one NCAA All-American, one honorable-mention All-American and four NCAA qualifiers. She also mentored six qualifiers for the 2012 Olympic Trials as well as 10 U.S. National qualifiers.
On the academic side, she helped guide the Gamecock women's team to the highest team GPA in the nation in the fall of 2011 and saw the men's team turn in six semesters with a team GPA above 3.0. She was also actively involved in the athletics department, serving on several policy committees.
Before coming to South Carolina, Steketee served as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, she also served as academic counselor for student-athletes and assisted with administrative duties, including newsletter production and travel coordination. During her time at West Virginia, the Mountaineers produced 18 NCAA qualifiers and 23 All-Americans. The men's team also won the 2007 Big East Championship and the women's team improved from 11th place to third in the Big East.
Steketee graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University with a degree in human development and psychological services in 2003. At Northwestern, she participated on the crew team. She was selected as Most Valuable Rower three consecutive years and served as varsity captain. While in Evanston, Steketee also served with the Northwestern Aquatic Swim Association, serving as head development coach for a 150-member youth swim team.
She received a master's degree in public health from West Virginia University. She is married to Steve Steketee, who was also an assistant coach on the South Carolina and West Virginia coaching staffs.
"It's a great honor and privilege to join the University of Nevada community," Steketee said. "I am impressed with the University's commitment to the personal growth, academic achievement and athletic success of its student-athletes and I am excited to lead the swimming and diving program back to championship form."