While Michael Phelps and the rest of the world were making swimming history in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Army head coach Mickey Wender was there making his own mark. Appointed head coach of the American Samoa swimming contingent for the games, he and rising Black Knight junior Stewart Glenister, whose parents are native to the small island in the South Pacific, made the trip to the Far East to compete against the best athletes in the world on the grandest stage the sport has to offer.
Under Wender's watchful eye, Glenister swam to first place in his heat of the 50-meter freestyle, while setting an American Samoan national record in the process. Wender was also able to soak up as much of the Olympic experience as he could to bring back to the West Point pool deck at Crandall Pool.
The ninth head coach in the 92-year history of the men's program and the sixth women's coach in the program's 34-year history, Wender enters his sixth year at West Point after eight seasons as the head of the swimming & diving program at the University of Washington where he authored an impressive dual meet record of 154-58.
Upon his hiring in 2006, former Army Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson stated, "We are very excited to announce the hiring of Mickey Wender as the next men's and women's swimming and diving coach at the United States Military Academy. He has excelled at the highest level of his field, helping to develop countless All-Americans over the years in one of the most competitive swimming conferences in the country. We are very fortunate to have attracted someone of the quality of Mickey Wender to lead our program.
"Complementing his vast success in the pool, Wender brings an impressive record of leadership development that has remained constant throughout his illustrious coaching career," continued Anderson. "We feel Mickey will serve as an outstanding role model for our cadet-athletes, providing them the best experience possible."
In his first season with the Black Knights, Wender was named Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading the men's program to second place at the conference championship meet with the team's highest point total since Army won the meet in 2001. He also guided the women to a fourth-place outcome as 11 total members of the two teams earned All-Patriot League recognition. Wender then directed the men's team to a second-place finish at the USA Swimming Championships while two of his swimmers - Zach Disbrow '07 and Jake Mentele '08 - registered qualifying times for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Twenty-one members of the team either earned a spot or moved up on Army's all-time top-10 performance lists, with nearly 95 percent of the roster achieving personal bests in their primary events.
Mentele followed in Disbrow's footsteps in 2008, bringing home Male Swimmer of the Meet honors at the Patriot League Championships after winning individual titles in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes as well as the 200 IM.
"I was so proud of what both teams accomplished in my first two seasons," stated Wender. "We grew a lot since first meeting after I took over, as individuals, as a team and as a coaching staff. I'm really pleased with the foundation that group laid for the Army swimming program and what we plan to achieve in the future."
The Setauket, N.Y., native restored the Washington program to national prominence during his tenure with the Huskies while competing in the Pacific-10 conference. His women's program appeared in the national rankings in 2003 and 2005, and the men's squad earned national recognition from 2000 to 2005.
Twelve Husky swimmers earned All-America recognition and 28 qualified for the NCAA Championships during his tenure. Impressively, Wender sent a representative to the championships for every swimming event during his successful run in Seattle. His swimmers broke school records in 32 different events on multiple occasions.
During the 2003-04 campaign, his men's team finished 25th at nationals on the strength of five NCAA qualifiers, including Phil Davis, a Pac-10 Champion and conference record holder in the 200 breaststroke. It was the men's team's highest finish at the NCAA Championships in more than 30 years.
The women's team sent four swimmers to the 2003 NCAA Championships and placed 19th for the highest national finish since swimming became an NCAA sponsored sport in 1982. Kim Harada, who coached with Wender for three years at Washington and two years at Army, recorded two fourth-place finishes in the 50 and 100 freestyle events to earn All-America honors. She also earned honorable mention honors in the 200 freestyle relay along with teammates Annette Vayo, Melody Staubitz and Sharon Olson.
Wender's swimmers not only achieved success in the pool, but were just as impressive in the classroom. Ten Huskies were named to the Pac-10 All-Academic squad during the 2001-02 season, including David Moilanen who was a first team Academic All-American, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and the school record holder in the 100 backstroke. Wender's swimmers were honored with postseason awards at the conference and national level for four consecutive years. Five men and seven women were named to the Pac-10 All-Academic team in 2005. His teams also garnered awards for community service, academics and school spirit.
"I was honored and humbled to have been selected the next swimming and diving team coach at the United States Military Academy," said Wender. "I really felt that coming to West Point was a perfect fit for my family and me. It has always been a dream of mine to serve my country, and to be able to do so while coaching the sport that has become my passion is an incredible blessing.
"I know the Army program has a ton of potential and presents a unique opportunity to compete at a very high level in a competitive league," added Wender. "Growing up in the area, I've always been fascinated with West Point, and to be able to work here is an amazing privilege. I'm excited to put all of the knowledge and experience that I've gained into action at West Point."
Before joining the Huskies' program in 1998, Wender led the University of California-Santa Cruz swimming and diving squad to four top-10 national finishes in six years (1992-98), compiling a 54-6 divisional dual-meet record. After four years, he boosted the Banana Slugs from being unranked to finishing sixth in the Women's NCAA Division III Championships and ninth in the men's division.
Wender also coached the 1996 NCAA Division III 200 individual medley champion and guided his athletes to more than 60 All-America performances while at UC-Santa Cruz. Furthermore, 90 percent of his athletes graduated in four years. He also served as the aquatics manager and a physical education instructor. Prior to his appointment at UC-Santa Cruz, Wender served as the head assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Cal State-Northridge for two seasons from 1990-92. During that time, he aided Pete Accardy, NCAA Division II "Coach of the Decade," as he transitioned the program to Division-I status.
Wender was an assistant coach for the USA National Team that competed in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1997. He also has been active coaching and implementing programs at the high school and master's levels, as well as in public relations and public speaking. In addition, he was the founder of the NIKE Swim Camps at UC-Santa Cruz, as well as the San Diego Triathlon Camp. He has also produced a best-selling instructional swim video series and is the founder of Team Starbucks Aquatics, a highly-successful club program.
Wender has been a leader in the sport politically, serving in leadership positions of several national and local organizations. He served as the president of the Greater Seattle Swim Coaches Association, and he currently sits on the board of the College Swim Coaches Association of America.
A four-year letterwinner at the University of Vermont, Wender served as team captain and won a state championship while swimming for the Catamounts from 1985 to 1989. He graduated from Vermont in 1989, boasting the school's highest grade-point average in the physical education program.
He went on to earn his master's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on sport psychology in 1992 from Cal State-Northridge, and was honored again as the top-ranked student in the school's Kinesiology Department.
Wender's passion, in addition to coaching, is competing in endurance races. The innovative and energetic coach has completed two Ironman Triathlons, and, along with four teammates, placed ninth in the 1996 Eco Challenge, widely known as one of the world's toughest athletic events. Wender also added to his list of accomplishments an ascent to the peak of Washington's Mt. Rainier in 1999.
Wender and his wife, Kate, have been married for 14 years. They have four children, Samantha Jane (11) twin boys, Jack and Luke (8), and Grace (4). The family resides at West Point.