Duane Sorenson enters his 17th season as the head coach of the Iowa State swimming and diving program in 2013-14, and will return 26 student-athletes from last season’s squad and welcome in five newcomers to the Iowa State program.
The dean of Big 12 coaches, Sorenson’s swimmers have earned all-conference honors 43 times, including Jeli Nixt, who earned All-Big 12 accolades in the 100 breast three times during her Iowa State career.
Iowa State has become one of the Big 12’s top breaststroke programs, producing 20 all-conference honors among six swimmers. The Cyclones’ top-10 200 breast swimmers and top-nine 100 breast student-athletes in school history all competed under Sorenson’s watch.
As a testament to his ability to improve student-athlete performance and get the most out of his swimmers, all of Iowa State’s current swimming records have been set under the guidance of Sorenson.
In 2013, four swimmers combined for six all-conference honors, Iowa State’s first All-Big 12 nods since the 2010 Big 12 Championships meet. Bre Loeschke’s school-record time of 1:56.90 in the 200 back was good enough for second place in the event. Imelda Wistey finished third in the 100 breaststroke, touching the wall in 1:01.35, another Iowa State record. Loeschke and Dani Harris each earned two All-Big 12 honors, while Wistey and Amanda Paulson each added one.
Iowa State won four dual meets during the 2012-13 season, defeating South Dakota State, South Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha and UNI. The swimmers set three school records, including a 22.78 finish by Paulson in the 50 freestyle prelims at the conference meet. For the season, the Cyclones clocked in with eight top-five times in program history.
The 2009-10 season was historic for the Cyclones, who won eight dual meets for the first time in school history. Iowa State collected victories against Illinois State, Evansville, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Green Bay, Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha before finishing fifth at the Big 12 Championships with 338 points. Iowa State broke 10 school records during the four-day event and had four all-conference performances in the pool and on the diving boards.
The 35-year coaching veteran has compiled an 83-72 (.535) record in his 16 years at Iowa State. He has won six or more duals in five seasons, including a 7-2 finish during the 2001-02 campaign. It was Iowa State’s best record in 20 years and the team finished fourth at the Big 12 meet, scoring 500 points, the highest total in school history and the best finish at the Big 12 meet. Three Cyclones competed in six events at the NCAA Championships that year, including Sonja Groning, who finished 19th in the 100 fly. Seven Cyclones have competed in 23 different individual events at the NCAA Championships during Sorenson's tenure.
The 2000-01 Cyclones finished 6-4 while the 2002-03 team went 6-3, the second-best record achieved by an Iowa State swimming and diving team under Sorenson.
At the 2001 Big 12 Championships, Sorenson earned Co-Outstanding Coach of the Meet.
Since taking the position as the Cyclones’ head coach, Sorenson’s teams have not only made great strides in the pool, but have achieved success in the classroom as well. Iowa State’s grade-point average is consistently among the best in the conference and the nation.
Iowa State led the Big 12 in 2012-13 with 16 student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team. The squad trails only the 2010-11 Cyclone for most academic honors; the 2010-11 club placed 20 student-athletes on academic teams, 15 on the top team.
As a team, Iowa State earned CSCAA Scholastic All-America team honors for the 23rd-consecutive season in 2012 and three student-athletes were named individual honorable mentions.
Before coming to Iowa State, Sorenson was head coach of the South East Metro Sharks (SEMS) Swim Club. As coach of the Sharks, he received the Minnesota Chapter of the American Swimming Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year award five different times. In his 20 years with the club, Sorenson led the team to five championships and 11 runner-up finishes at state competition. More notably, he tutored 67 junior national qualifiers and 25 senior national qualifiers throughout his tenure at SEMS. From 1987-97, more than 120 of Sorenson’s swimmers graduated to the collegiate level.
Sorenson also served as the head coach for the Woodbury High School girls’ swim team. While coaching the Royals, Sorenson’s squads captured four conference titles, won four sectional championships, had one state runner-up finish and captured one state title. His accomplishments earned him the 1991 High School Coach of the Year award in the State of Minnesota.
Sorenson also served as the head girls’ swimming coach at Park/Woodbury High School (1982-85), Park Senior High (1979-81) and Tartan High School (1977-78), all in Minnesota. Sorenson coached swimmers at these schools to three sectional championships and four conference titles.
During the 1978-79 season, Sorenson was asked back to his alma mater, Bemidji State University, as an assistant coach for the men’s team. He helped guide the Beavers to a fourth-place NAIA national finish.
As a student-athlete at Bemidji State from 1973-77, Sorenson was a member of the swimming team. During his junior and senior seasons he was an NAIA All-American and co-captain. In 1976, he swam to a Northern Intercollegiate Conference championship in the 200 breaststroke.