GAMBIER, Ohio, July 14. FOR the first time in the program's 35-year history, the Kenyon College women's swimming and diving team will be under the direction of a new head coach.
Peter Smith, director of athletics, fitness and recreation, announced Wednesday that Jessen Book, '01, has been hired to succeed Jim Steen, the Ladies' only head coach since the program's inaugural 1975-76 season. Book is beyond familiar with the structure of the most prolific dynasty in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III women's history. He was a four-year member of the Kenyon men's team, which was and still is coached by Steen. One year after graduation, Book returned to campus and served as Steen's assistant coach four times.
"Jess Book is coming home! I can think of no other individual who embodies, and embraces, so much of what this College is all about," Steen said. "The fact that he has developed into one of the rising stars in the coaching world will add further value to a rich tradition of excellence established by the Kenyon Ladies, both in the pool and out. I am excited to work alongside Jess, and look forward to the opportunity to learn from him."
Book, who spent four seasons as an assistant men's coach at The Ohio State University, takes over a Kenyon program that's captured a record 23 NCAA Division III titles, including an unsurpassed streak of 17 consecutive titles from 1984 through 2000. During his time at Ohio State, the Buckeyes improved from fifth place to first place at Big Ten Championship meets and moved from twenty-first place to ninth place at NCAA Championship meets.
"Jess brings with him an excellent blend of experiences, from a liberal arts background at Kenyon to the high-profile Division I scene at Ohio State," Smith said. "His level of energy and passion for the sport is a signature of his character and we are delighted that he has accepted the position."
As a swimmer, Book was a member of four Kenyon national championship teams and was an All-America award-winner in the 1999-00 season. He captained the 2000-01 Lords squad and closed out his senior season with an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and his third-straight spot on the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's (CSCAA) All-Academic Team.
"I have been shaped immeasurably by my time here in Gambier as a student, and as an assistant coach. Kenyon swimming and especially coach Steen have played an incredible role in my life and development," Book said. "From those I swam with, coached, and coached alongside, I have learned much of who I am as a person and what I believe to be important in life. I am eager to be in a position to share those views with the exciting and amazing young people who choose to come to Kenyon."
While assisting Steen, Book helped guide the Ladies to three national titles and the Lords to four. During that time, he also played a key role in the development of 20 NCAA individual-event champions and seven NCAA Division III record-setters. Prior to acquiring his master's degree in sports and exercise studies at Ohio State, Book earned bachelor's degrees in English and biology. His range of work experience also extends to one-year stints as the general manager of Total Performance Sport Camps and as a Kenyon admissions counselor.
"What I have found over the intervening years is that [Kenyon] is openly and honestly committed to helping young people seek success in all areas of their lives," Book added. "This kind of environment, I believe, allows student-athletes to be just that: student-athletes. Swimmers are encouraged to be exceptional swimmers all the while still being exceptional students. This, in the long run, helps them to be prepared to lead exceptional lives."
Book currently resides in Columbus with his wife Niki (Watson) Book '01, who is finishing up a surgical fellowship in urogynocology at Riverside Hospital.
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