With Stony Brook’s totally revamped University Pool now open, the Women’s Swimming and Diving program reinstated, and two-time Olympian Janelle Atkinson on board as head coach, the Seawolves are ready to dive back into collegiate competition.
“Stony Brook Swimming and Diving has a long and illustrious history,” President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. said. “With Janelle Atkinson as head coach, I predict we will be adding championship banners to this highly-anticipated facility’s walls very soon.”
Stony Brook celebrated the reopening of University Pool on Monday, May 15 with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The facility will be the new home of the Women’s Swimming and Diving team, headed by Coach Atkinson, who competed for her native Jamaica in both the 2000 Sydney Games and 2004 Athens Games.
“The opening of this pool means so much, not just to me personally, but for the program in general,” Atkinson said. “In a day and age where college swim programs are being cut left and right, what an exciting time it is for Stony Brook’s program to start back up.”
The program was placed on competitive hiatus in 2012-13 following the announcement of a multi-million dollar critical maintenance renovation to University Pool. Construction began in January of 2015 when the existing pool was completely demolished to make way for a much-needed and improved facility.
With a maximum depth of 13 feet, six 25-meter lanes, and several competition diving boards, the reconstructed pool facility features a state-of-the-art movable floor in the shallow end, an enhanced automated mechanical system that includes remote monitoring to aid in pool maintenance, and an updated air conditioning system with multi-season climate control. To accommodate Seawolves fans, new bleachers expand seating capacity to 260 while keeping accessibility in mind.
“The University Pool is about our campus and our pride,” Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said. “We have a historic legacy here. My hope is that this new addition to our campus will allow our students and alumni to really enjoy our Swimming and Diving tradition moving forward.”
The legacy Heilbron mentions includes two influential individuals among many — the late, great founder of the Seawolves Women’s Swimming and Diving program David Alexander, who won more than 300 dual meets and produced more than 100 All-Conference swimmers, four All-Americans and more than 20 NCAA Championship qualifiers during his 32-year competitive and coaching career at Stony Brook; and Leah Holland, the first woman to join a Stony Brook swim team, who in 1972 became the first woman to win a medal in the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Swimming Association Championships.
“We look forward to celebrating the reignition of our Women’s Swimming and Diving program under the tutelage of Jenelle Atkinson, our new head coach,” Heilbron said. “It’s not easy to start a program from scratch, but in Jenelle, we have the right woman at the right time.”
Atkinson spent the past three seasons as head coach of Fairfield University’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. She also spent four years and four seasons at the University of Connecticut and Wright State University, respectively, coaching similar programs.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Atkinson is a two-time Olympian who competed in the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games. She finished fourth in the 400-meter freestyle and ninth in the 800-meter freestyle in Sydney. In 2016 at the Olympic Games in Rio, Atkinson served as ESPN’s swimming analyst for their coverage of the games aired in the Caribbean.
“I am beyond ecstatic to be here,” Atkinson said, following up on President Stanley’s prediction. “I cannot be more excited for the future of this program, and I definitely have a whole lot of championship banners coming your way.”
Graduate students, faculty and staff, and other members of the campus community who wish to use the University Pool must pay a monthly membership fee. For more information about membership fees and hours of operations, please visit the Campus Recreation website.