Neal Studd became the eighth head coach of Florida State swimming and diving on July 20, 2016.
The six-time Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Coach of the Year brought a wealth of experience to Tallahassee after building Florida Gulf Coast University from scratch into one of the best mid-major programs in the country in his nine years at the helm.
In 2019-20, Studd built the men’s relays into some of the fastest in the nation as four of the five earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships. All five relays also stood on the podium at ACCs for the first time since 2009.
Despite graduating three members off the free relays from 2018-19, the Seminoles defended their 200 free relay title behind freshman Peter Varjasi, senior Griffin Alaniz, sophomore Jakub Ksiazek and sophomore Max McCusker (1:16.69).
Varjasi also took home six medals from ACCs, including silver in the 100 free (42.58) and bronze in the 50 free (19.35), while contributing on four relays. Sophomore Izaak Bastian also swam the second fastest 100 breast in school history in order to capture bronze.
The Seminoles also set the school record in the 800 free relay for the third season in a row under Studd, winning ACC bronze at 6:15.94. Varjasi also broke the 200 free school record as the lead-off leg at 1:32.76.
Varjasi (200 free), Alaniz (100 back), Ksiazek (50 free, 200 free), Bastian (100 back), McCusker (100 fly) along with senior Max Polianski (200 fly) all earned NCAA individual invites to the men’s meet while sophomores Aryanna Fernandes (100 fly), Nina Kucheran (100 breast) and freshman Sydney VanOvermeiren (400 IM) qualified for the women’s.
In his third season at the helm, the Seminoles broke nine records 11 times, captured four All-American performances, three honorable mentions, four ACC event titles, two ACC silvers and three bronze medal performances.
Studd helped the men’s team to its best season under his tutelage, finishing 14th at the 2019 NCAA Championships, tying the sixth highest performance in school history.
The Seminoles took home three All-American relay finishes from the meet for the first time since 1998. The team of senior Will Pisani, Ksiazek, seniors Emir Muratovic and Kanoa Kaleoaloha finished fifth in both the 200 free and 400 free relays at NCAAs, marking the highest finish at the meet in school history.
Both swims also established new school records and took home ACC gold and silver respectively.
Muratovic, Bastian, Kaleoaloha and Pisani placed seventh in the 200 medley relay at NCAAs and also took bronze at ACCs in school record-timing.
Individually, Kaleoaloha captured two ACC gold medals, winning the 100 fly in school record-timing of 44.93 before taking the 100 free at 42.34.
Pisani brought home FSU’s 10th ACC title in the 50 free, clocking 19.21 and followed that performance with an 11th place finish in the event at NCAAs after posting his personal best at 19.12. Studd then coached Pisani to qualify for the 2019 FINA World Championships for Team Canada by placing third in the 100m free.
The women’s team highlighted its season with an 11-1, 3-0 ACC record, which tied the best showing in school history. The Seminoles picked up a pair of ranked wins on the road, first defeating No. 13 Minnesota before downing No. 23 Alabama.
A pair of freshmen breaststrokers carried the Seminoles at the conference and national level, led by Ida Hulkko who finished fifth in the 100 breast at the NCAA Championship with the second fastest time in school history at 58.58 after taking bronze at ACCs. Kucheran also earned a trip to the NCAA Championships and took silver in the 200 breast in school record timing of 2:08.78.
Outside of the pool, the women’s team won its sixth-straight CSCAA Scholar All-America status and also captured its second Director’s Cup for Service Award, which is given to the FSU team that averages the most community service hours.
Studd has also built up a presence of Seminoles competing at international meet as seven swimmers competed at the 2019 FINA World Championships and five swam at the 2019 World University Games with Tayla Lovemore winning gold in the 50m and 100m fly and Kucheran earning bronze in the 4×100 medley relay for Team Canada.
In 2017-18, the Seminoles broke eight school records 14 times throughout the year, earned six ACC swimming medals and three All-America honors.
The men’s 200 free relay produced one of the best NCAA finishes in school history, placing seventh behind junior Will Pisani, senior Chad Mylin, senior Joe Plechy and junior Kanoa Kaleoaloha in school record-setting fashion (1:16.13), capturing All-America accolades, which were the first men’s honors of his career.
Florida State also won the consolation heat of the 400 free relay behind junior Emir Muratovic, Plechy, Pisani and Kaleoaloha, becoming the first team in school history to break the 2:50 barrier, clocking 2:49.70.
The Seminoles finished the 2018 NCAA Championships in 21st place after being included in every CSCAA poll during the season.
The women’s team was led by senior Tayla Lovemore, who captured her second straight All-America honorable mention in the 100 fly behind a 16th place finish at the NCAA Championships after she won ACC bronze. Her classmate Natalie Pierce won her first ACC title in the 100 breast and also secured silver in the 200 breast, setting a new school record at 2:09.05, becoming the fastest breaststroker in FSU history.
Freshman Madeline Cohen took down one of the oldest swimming records in the book, dropping a near eight seconds in the 200 back to take down a mark that was set back in 2010, clocking 1:53.51, qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
FSU was represented in four relays at the NCAA Championships, just two seasons after not fielding any. In addition, freshman Elise Olsen along with Lovemore, Pierce and Cohen competed in individual swimming events. The Noles improved upon two of their school records, establishing new marks in the 200 free relay (1:28.49) and 400 medley relay (3:32.32).
The future also looks bright for the Noles, as Studd secured top recruiting classes including the eighth-ranked women’s class according to swimswam.com for the 2018-19 season.
Studd wasted no time in 2016-17, getting to work, helping the FSU men’s team improve to a fifth place finish at the ACC Championships, while helping the women score over 100 more points at the meet than a season ago.
The women were highlighted by Pierce, who placed fourth in the 100 breast at the NCAA Championships in school record timing of 58.25 after missing out on an invitation to the meet in 2016. Pierce went on to also place fourth at the World Championship Trials in the 50m breast in the summer of 2017.
Studd also coached Lovemore and Christina Loh to school records and NCAA individual bids in the 100 fly (51.6) and 200 breast (2:10.55) respectively.
Both teams also saw significant improvement in relays as the women’s team set new FSU records in 200 free, 200 medley and 400 medley relays.
Chad Mylin won bronze at the ACC Championships in the 50 free before leading the Noles to an All-American honorable mention behind a 11th place finish in the 200 free relay.
Studd has also coached several student-athletes on the international level, including Lovemore and Daniella Van den Berg, who both competed at World Championships during the 2016-17 season. Also, Freshmen Felipe Ribeiro de Souza (Brazil) and Vladimir Stefanik (Slovakia) represented their countries at the 2017 World University Games and Pisani captured a pair of Canadian National titles in both 2017 and 2018.
Studd captured seven CCSA Championships in eight years, guiding the Eagles to a 32-1 conference dual record since the program’s 2007-08 inception, when FGCU became a Division I institution.
His program celebrated its finest season in 2014-15, finishing 26th at the NCAA Championships with 37.5 points behind three individual scoring performances and the school’s first All-American relay finish. For his efforts, he received Coach of the Meet honorable mention accolades.
Last season the Eagles posted wins over three ACC teams (FSU, Notre Dame, Miami) while 2016 CCSA Swimmer of the Year, Elise Haan, took home three conference titles and earned All-America honorable mention with a 16th place finish in the 100 back.
Studd coached several standouts during his nine seasons, but none were more decorated than Emma Svensson, who finished her career with four NCAA appearances which included a pair All-America honorable mention accolades in the 50 free, finishing 12th at both the 2014 and 2015 Championships. Svensson also captured the Elite 89 honor at the 2013 meet, which is given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA. She was also selected as the 2015 CCSA Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
Among a plethora of honors, Svensson was inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame following the 2014-15 season.
Kira Toussaint brought home the program’s first All-American performance in 2014, finishing seventh in the 100 back at the NCAA Championships and later earned the 2014 CCSA Swimmer of the Year accolades. She followed her rookie campaign with an eighth-place showing in the 100 back and 12th place finish in the 200 back in 2015.
FGCU established its dominance of the CCSA at the 2009 championships; the first of five consecutive titles. During that stretch, the Eagles captured seven Most Outstanding Swimmers of the Meet and Most Outstanding Freshman honors, in addition to three Swimmer of the Year accolades.
Prior to FGCU, Studd spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Florida Atlantic. He returned to FAU after spending one year with the Wall Street firm of Morgan Stanley following his graduation in 1998.
Once Studd returned to swimming, he was tasked with working with the sprinters. Under his instruction, the group established the majority of the school records which he had previously held. His group also posted Sun Belt Conference records in addition to several National Independent Conference and Sun Belt titles.
Studd coached St. Lucia at the 2012 Olympic Games as well as the 2011 FINA World Championships. He then moved on to coach Barbados at the 2013 World Championships.
A native of Ipswich, United Kingdom, Studd was the national junior champion, team captain and record-holder in the 200m free. He competed at FAU from 1994-98 where he was the men’s team captain and Olympic Trials qualifier.
He graduated from FAU in 1998 with a B.S. in finance before earning his MBA from FAU in 2002. Studd and his wife Leah have two children, Henry and Sophia.