Entering his 25th season as head coach of the men's and women's swimming teams, former UC letter-winner Monty Hopkins has used his wealth of competitive and coaching experience to annually produce conference champions and NCAA qualifiers.
Through his time at UC, the Bearcats have won a combined 12 (seven women's, five men's) conference championships, and had two NCAA Champions (Becky Ruehl & Josh Schneider), 17 NCAA All-Americans, 14 Academic All-Americans, and three Olympians. He has coached seven Jimmy Nippert Award Winners, including four of the past five honorees. The Nippert Award honors the top graduating senior student-athletes at UC. The Bearcats have also earned a host of BIG EAST Conference Sport Excellence Awards, both individual and team honors, and numerous other academic honors. Hopkins was instrumental in the development of 2010 UC graduate and 2012 U.S. Olympic hopeful Josh Schneider, who won the 2010 NCAA Champion in the 50 freestyle, giving the Bearcats their first swimming national title since Charles Keating in 1946.
Schneider left UC as a five-time all-America selection and seven-time BIG EAST Conference Champion. During the 2010-11 season, three school records were set and Liz Hansson won the BIG EAST Championship in the 50 freestyle as the women finished a best-ever fifth at the BIG EAST Conference Championships. In 2009-10, Schneider was one of three Bearcats to earn All-BIG EAST honors, along with Jeremy Peter and Nathan Williams. Schneider won three individual league titles (50 free, 100 free, 100 fly), setting UC, meet, and pool records in all three events and was named the BIG EAST Men's Swimmer of the Year for the second-straight season. Elinore de Jong and Schneider both won the 2008-09 and 2009-10 BIG EAST Conference Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Awards, which recognize academic and athletic achievement as well as community service.
In 2009, the women's team was ranked No. 2 in the nation academically by the Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). The women's squad also won the BIG EAST Team Academic Excellence Award for having the best team GPA in the league for the second-straight year. Schneider, an Honorable-Mention All-America honoree at the NCAA meet, was named the 2008-09 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Men's Swimmer after winning three individual titles and setting three BIG EAST records at the league championship meet in February. Thirteen school records fell during the season and eight swimmers grabbed 15 All-BIG EAST honors with their finishes at the league championship meet. The 2006-07 Bearcats finished fifth (men) and eighth (women) in the BIG EAST and a pair of UC records fell. Following the season, as is usually the case with a Hopkins-coached team, the Bearcats garnered several academic awards. Gerdien de Jong and Marcel Kleiner earned the BIG EAST/Aeropostale Scholar Athlete Award. Kleiner was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team. Hopkins' 2006-07 team once again excelled in the classroom as each team was ranked nationally by the College Swimming Coaches of America (CSCAA). The men were tabbed as one of 63 teams in the country to earn All-Academic honors, and also boosted the ninth best GPA in the nation. The women were also diligent in the classroom, having the 49th-best GPA nationally and were recognized as an All-American team.
His 2004-05 teams had one NCAA qualifier, Ann Degenstein, who earned all-America honors after finishing 11th and 14th, respectively, in the 100 and 200 butterfly. Four Bearcats earned Academic All-America honors in that season, and the men's and women's programs each finished 10th nationally in combined grade point average. Hopkins directed the 2003-04 men's and women's teams to fourth-place finishes at the Conference USA Championships. Louise Gowens finished 32nd in the 200 butterfly at the NCAA Championships. UC's women's team was named a 2004 Academic All-American Team by the CSCAA. UC, under Hopkins, claimed two Conference USA Swimmer of the Year awards in 2002-03. Scott Davison qualified for his fourth consecutive NCAA Championship and was named C-USA Men's Swimmer of the Year after setting a school record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:24.82, nearly a full second faster than the old mark. Ann Degenstein was named C-USA Freshman Swimmer of the Year after winning the 200 butterfly, setting a new C-USA record of 2:01.50.
The 2001-02 women's team captured the first-ever C-USA Championship. Based on the overall team's outstanding performance, Hopkins was named C-USA Coach of the Year. Four swimmers qualified for the NCAA Championships, with Ryan McNally and Maria Oberg each earning all-America honors. Oberg went on the become a five-time NCAA All-American In 2000-01, Hopkins directed the women's team to its fifth-straight National Independent Conference (NIC) title and the men to a second-place finish. The teams combined to take home nine individual conference titles, and three Bearcats, Steve Davison, Ryan McNally and Oberg participated in the NCAA Championships.
In 1999-2000, Nelly Jorgenson was an NCAA All-American in the 200 freestyle and Sofia Svensson made the Top-8 in the 200 backstoke. Honza Vitazka (Czech Republic) and Jeppe Nielson (Denmark) both participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics with Honza making the semi-finals in the 200 IM. Vitazka was a six-time NCAA All-American and was inducted into the James P. Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. The 1997-98 campaign proved to be one of the most distinguished in the school's history. The men's and women's teams both claimed conference titles, with the men finishing 23rd at the NCAA Championship and the women 25th. Blake Layda became the first Bearcat to break 20 seconds in the 50 free and Vitazka qualified first to the NCAA meet in the 200 IM. Steven McLeod also earned NCAA All-American honors in the 1,650 free.
Hopkins' 1995-96 women's team left its mark when the Bearcats placed 16th at the NCAA Championships. Becky Ruehl became UC's first female National Champion in any sport when she captured the 10-meter platform diving competition. She was named NCAA Diver of the Year for her efforts. Later that year, Ruehl made the U.S. Olympic team and placed fourth in platform diving at the Atlanta Olympics. Angie Trostel placed in both finals at the USA Olympic Trials and went on to be a nine-time NCAA All-American and four-time NIC Champion. Following the 1996 NCAA Championship, diving coach Charlie Casuto was named NCAA Coach of the Year and later selected as one of the U.S. Olympic Team coaches.
UC's first conference championship came in Hopkins' third year both the men and the women won the 1992 N.I.C. Championship meet. Brent Ellery was the first swimming NCAA All-American for a Hopkins-coached team. In Hopkins' first year as Head Coach at UC the 1989 Bearcats divers, Steve Bell, Dean Panaro and Diane Kelly, who were coached by Casuto, brought home six All-American honors. Hopkins became head coach at Cincinnati in 1989 after an 11-year club head coaching career, with stints as an assistant coach at Ohio State from 1981-83, Mission Viejo in 1985 and Louisiana State in 1988. He coached several world-class swimmers and national qualifiers, as well as over 40 junior national qualifiers in nine years as a USS head coach at Westerville Aquatic Club (Columbus, Ohio), Texas Aquatics (Ft. Worth, Texas) and perennial national power Lakeside Swim Team (Louisville, Ky.).
During his tenure at Lakeside, Hopkins coached a Pan-Am gold medalist and developed a 1988 Olympian. While at the Westerville Aquatic Club, he also coached the Westerville North High boys' team for two seasons and the girls' team for one year. Hopkins was a four-year letterman, a two-time conference champion, two time NCAA qualifier and a 1976 Olympic Trials qualifier while swimming at UC. He served as co-captain his senior season and was a recipient of the Jimmy Nippert Award as the top UC male senior student-athlete.
A 1978 College of Business graduate of Cincinnati, Hopkins earned all-state honors at Mariemont High School and was an AAU Nationals participant with the Cincinnati Marlins before coming to UC. Hopkins and his wife, Celeste, a UC graduate from the College of Education and an elementary school teacher at Wilson Elementary in Anderson Township, have a son, Daniel, a sophomore at UC majoring in business and a daughter, Sarah.