Utah Tech swim coach named WAC coach of the year, gives credit to team

Dan Kesler won the 2023 Western Athletic Conference swim coach of the year. Annie Sorensen | Sun News Daily

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The Utah Tech University swim coach was named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and credits the team as a testament to its hard work. 

Head coach Dan Kesler recently completed his second season at Utah Tech. The team finished in fourth place at the 2023 WAC championship Feb. 22-25. 

Pia Murray, a junior psychology major from Preston, England, and Ally Boynton, a sophomore exercise science major from Woods Cross, were among the several Trailblazers to have top-10 individual finishes at the championship.

“The meet wasn’t surprising,” Boynton said. “We went the times we knew we were going to go… We were supposed to get those times; we were supposed to rank that high because we knew it from day one.”

Murray and Boynton both acknowledged Kesler for his contribution to their achievements.

“From day one, [Kesler] has been contributing in a way where he gets us ready for race day and that one race,” Boynton said. “Because we have been working for this for so long, he reminds us every day of our goals. He tells us that we deserve this, and that we should be getting the times we get, and that we are going to be fast.”

Murray said she has never had a coach that could push her to the level that Kesler pushed her. Kesler’s coaching—along with his understanding of each individual swimmer’s needs—helped her achieve her goals.

“He knows each of us really well and will tailor the training to what each individual needs, and that’s something not many coaches can do,” Murray said.

Not only is Kesler a successful and experienced swim coach, he cares for his athletes beyond the swimming pool and wants them to succeed in all aspects of their lives. Kesler encourages the team to participate in service hours and to excel in their classes. 

Kesler said: “When I was young, I thought being a good coach was based on how someone swam up and down a box of water, and that really has nothing to do with it. Swimming is the device, the avenue, the outlook that we use to make people better.”

Kesler said he had many mentors throughout his years of coaching that played a major role in his development. Here are four of them specifically: 

  • Kirk Sanocki from Wingate University taught Kesler how to care for an athlete.
  • Dorsey Tierney from Arizona State University taught Kesler how far you can push an athlete when you have their trust.
  • Bob Bowman from Arizona State University taught Kesler the importance of planning and how to put a four-year plan together.
  • Neal Studd from Florida State University taught Kesler the importance of team dynamics.

The tight-knit environment of the swim team is something Kesler strives to incorporate during each practice. Murray transferred schools because of the motivated, close environment Kesler creates.

Kesler said: “In our sport of swimming, I think it is so tough, ruling and nonstop. It is just a relentless thing that just keeps going. When you’re all in it together, and you can look to your right and look to your left with your teammates, the women that are in that grind with you, it elevates you and gives you a sense of security. When you have that environment that’s conducive to excellence it’s based upon, for me, simple things of feeling safe, feeling supported and having a voice.”

Kesler said the seniors on the team have helped build the team with class, and the team would not be where it is without them.

Boynton said: “With the WAC coach of the year, we were all so proud of him, but it was comforting for me and the team to know that after he got the award, he came to us and said, ‘I wouldn’t have this award without you guys. You guys are the swimmers; you guys are the ones who did this. I am just the one who facilitated it.’ For him to be that humble and care about us means so much.”