Now entering his eighth season as the Hillsdale College women’s swimming and diving coach, Kurt Kirner has brought the program up to a new level of performance and competitiveness, both in the pool and in the classroom.
Under Kirner’s guidance, swimmers from the Charger program have qualified for the national meet a total of eight times in the past five seasons. In 2009, one swimmer from all four classes - Anne Verhoef, Alicia LeDuc, Linda Okonkowski and Meredith Scott - each competed at the highest level of Division II swimming. It was Hillsdale’s most significant presence at the NCAA championships since it went to Division II status in 1998, and most signified the upward direction of the program. In 2011, Okonkowski secured the program's first Division II All-American honor in nine years under Kirner's guidance. Rachel Kurtz recieved the program's latest All-American honor in the 2013 season.
His teams have also annually appeared on the College Swimming Coaches Association of Ameria All-Academic lists for NCAA Division II. The team has earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better in each of the past five seasons. In 2013, 15 members of the team earned some kind of GLIAC academic honor.
Kirner arrived at Hillsdale after spending 17 successful seasons at Lawrence University, located in Appleton, Wisconsin. Kirner, along with Hillsdale College men’s basketball coach John Tharp, both joined Hillsdale College from Lawrence, within one year of one another.
While coaching the Vikings, Kirner led both the men’s and women’s swimming teams, paving the way for 175 individual conference champions during his tenure. He was named his conference’s coach of the year in 2006-07 after leading the women’s team to a secondplace finish. His women’s teams never finished lower than fourth place in the conference standings in his coaching career at Lawrence.
One of the most detail-oriented coaches on the Hillsdale College staff, Kirner brought with him a training program that has had a direct effect on the performances of his athletes. His out-of-the-pool training methods and techniques have allowed nearly every member of the team to achieve new lifetime-best times in various events in their most recent seasons.
The swimmers have continually led the athletic department in team grade point average since Kirner's arrival. The team has achieved Division II All-Academic status in each of his previous six seasons as coach. The 2011-12 team featured a total of six swimmers who earned national individual All-Academic recognition for their excellence in the classroom from the College Swimming Coaches Association.
Kirner competed as a collegiate swimmer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before beginning his coaching career in 1975. In addition to his coaching career at Lawrence, Kirner has coached many club swimming teams, and led the Schroeder Swim Team to two YMCA national championships.
Kirner is an assistant professor at Hillsdale College, and has taught Exercise Science, Kinesiology, and Dynamic Wellness in the past.