1900 Red River Street
Austin, Texas 78712
Phone- (512) 471-7703
Fax- (512) 471-0598
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Longhorn Aquatics Membership Office
Swimming Head Coach
A Dallas, Texas native, Mike Laitala was appointed Head Coach of Longhorn Aquatics in 2012, after serving as Associate Head Coach for three years. Over the course of his first quadrennium at the helm, Laitala has led TXLA to the Silver Medal in Club Excellence, while helping qualify four high school athletes to the 2016 Olympic Trials. In 2013 Mike served as an Assistant Coach to the United States Swimming Junior World Championships Team which competed in Dubai. There, his swimmer, Quinn Carrozza, earned a gold, silver, and bronze medal for her performances, while the US team earned the first place team title. Earlier in that year Carrozza had placed 8th in the 200 Free at the 2013 World Championship Trials. Over his first four years as Head Coach of Longhorn athletes have swam over 30 US Swimming top 10 ranked times, been finalists at Junior, Senior Nationals, World Championship Trials, and US Open events. On the state and local level, TXLA has seen numerous TAGS individual and relay titles, and set multiple Sectionals and Team records. Laitala’s swimmers have won Texas High School District, Regional, and State championships every year, and signed with Divison I and II colleges to continue their swimming careers.
Mike has over 15 years of coaching experience, both at the club levels, and in Division 1 collegiate competition, five years at the University of Denver. He was an All-American swimmer for the University of Texas men’s team, which earned the 2000 NCAA Team Title. He was a four-time TCIL High School State champion, junior national finalist swimmer in the late 90s, One of Mike’s favorite swimming experiences was representing his hometown Richardson, TX at the 2000 Olympic Trails. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with an All-Level Teaching Credential from UT Austin. Mike currently lives in Austin with his wife Bridgette, and their two dogs, Buddy and Cissy.
Masters Swimming Head Coach
Whitney Hedgepeth was a 27-time All-American and a three-time NCAA Champion during her collegiate career at The University of Texas at Austin. She graduated in 1994 with a Elementary Education Degree and taught 6th grade Language Arts for one year before deciding to return to swimming in hopes of making the 1996 Olympic Team. Whitney was a versatile swimmer and won seven national titles in seven different events (100 fly, 200 IM, 400 IM, 100 back, 200 back, 200 free, 500 free). She competed in the 1988 Olympics while still in High School in Seoul, Korea swimming the 200 IM and placing 8th. She later competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, winning three medals: a gold in the 400 medley relay, a silver in the 100 back, and a silver in the 200 back. After her achievements in Atlanta, Whitney retired from competitive swimming and decided to focus on coaching. Whitney started coaching at Longhorn Aquatics in 1996 as the head age-group coach. She was the National Team head-coach and Director of Longhorn Aquatics from 1998-2001. After having kids of her own, Whitney switched her focus to coaching adults where she currently holds the position of head swimming coach of our Master’s program. Whitney was inducted into the UT Women’s Hall of Honor in 2007 and the Virigina Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Whitney is married and has three children: a daughter who swims for Longhorn Aquatics and two sons who love baseball and football.
Co-Head Dive Coach
Co-Head Dive Coach
Jim Zagaria comes to Longhorn Aquatics from Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia. Under Zagaria, Marshall divers have set program firsts.
In the 2009-10 season, Marshall sent multiple divers to the NCAA Zones. Under Zagaria’s direction, Rachel Hannum, Haley Holmquist and Lauren Rone qualified for MU. Rone became the second MU freshman to qualify for the event.
Rone returned to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Rone holds the 1 Meter ad Platform School Records at Marshall. She also was named C-USA Diver of the Week and Marshall Student Athlete on several occasions.
Zagaria, a 2006 graduate of Metropolitan State University, was on the Iowa State diving team from 1997-2001.
His coaching experience at the high school level began in 2001 at Ames High School, where he coached a state champion and an All-American. From 2003-05 he coached the Woodbury HS girls team, which produced one state champion and two All-Americans. Zagaria also coached two All-State selections during his tenure at Anoka HS from 2004-06. He was named Section Diving Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
With Zagaria as the associate head coach of the Twin City (Minn.) Divers (2003-09), the club saw 47 Junior National qualifiers, 28 Senior National qualifiers, a 2009 AT&T National Diving Championship, a 2009 Men’s Synchronizing Platform Championship and two divers attend the World Team Trials. He also served as the meet manager at the 2007 USA Diving Spring Nationals.
At the college level, Zagaria has coached at the College of St. Catherine (2003-06), the University of St. Thomas (2003-05) and the University of Minnesota (2006-07). From 2003-06 he produced a finalist in both the one-meter and three-meter dives at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship. At UM he coached Big Ten finalists in the one-meter, three-meter and platform events; along with Divers of the Week and NCAA Zone qualifiers.
Water Polo Head Coach & Assistant Swimming Coach (National/AGE/Sr. Longhorn)
Tom Andrew graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007 with a degree in human development and family sciences. For his practicum, Tom acted as the assistant coach to the National team and trained the Junior Longhorns for Longhorn Aquatics. Tom is in his third year of coaching for Longhorn Aquatics. Prior to 2007, he coached at the Greater Northwest Gators Club and Swim America in San Antonio for four years.
During his time at UT, Tom was co-captain of the UT Water Polo team from 2005-07, on the Texas Division All-Conference Team 2003-06 and the Texas Division MVP in 2004. He earned three letters in swimming and water polo at Marshall High School in San Antonio. In the 2001-02 swim season, he was named District Swimmer of the Year and an All-American in the 100 yard back.
Assistant Swimming Coach (Longhorn Elite) and Meet Director
Bridgette Laitala comes to Longhorn Aquatics with 18 years of competitive swimming experience. Since starting with Longhorn Aquatics she has coached an array of ages and groups including Masters, from STAGS to National qualifiers. On the Longhorn deck she brings a great deal of spirit and enthusiasm to the team.
A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Bridgette swam and played water polo at Slippery Rock University. A four-time letter winner and co-captain, Bridgette was a 100 and 200 backstroke specialist. She graduated from Slippery Rock in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education for grades K-12 and a minor in aquatics.
Bridgette began coaching an age-group summer league in 1998. She continued coaching throughout college and made her way down to Austin in 2005 via the Longhorn Swim Camp, where she was a camp coach/counselor. Since living in Austin, she has become an Administrative Official, a multi-faceted instructor through the American Red Cross, and the team liaison for school districts offering Off Campus Physical Education waivers.
Pflugerville Head Swimming Coach
Coach Lara Ruthven brings to Longhorn Aquatics added knowledge and experience both as a coach and athlete. Lara earned a Master’s degree in Exercise Science and Physical Education from California State University, Chico. She received her Undergraduate degree from The University of Texas in Kinesiology where she was a member of the UT swim team. Lara was Conference Champion in 1992 & 1993 in the 400 IM. She was an Olympic Trials qualifier in both the 400 IM and 200 backstroke in 1992. By 1999 Lara had transitioned to be a competitive road cyclist. She was a two time World Championship Qualifier for the USA Cycling Team in 2000 and 2001. Was on the USA National Road Cycling Team from 2000 to 2003. Lara lived in Italy and competed at the Women’s Tour de France twice, the women’s Giro of Italy and numerous World Cup events from 2000 to 2003.
Coach Lara has been coaching and teaching swimming since she was 15 years old. Lara’s coaching philosophy is based on a foundation of stroke technique and quality training. Through quality training and great technique each swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete can develop their maximum strength and efficiency to achieve their goals. Lara believes that endurance sports like swimming and triathlon are a unique way that can help kids develop self-esteem, discipline and goal setting skills for life.
Assistant Swimming Coach
Christian was an All American swimmer for the University of Texas. He graduated from UT with a degree in Kinesiology and joined the Longhorn Aquatics coaching staff in 2013.
Christian has been helping people with technique throughout his career. Swimming for Randy Reese, Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik, he learned from the best. Christian also swam with many Olympians including Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, and Neil Walker, among others. Watching and learning from swimmers like this is invaluable.
In 2011 Christian started coaching at Austin Community College. He teaches students new to swimming the fundamentals of how to swim. He also works with students who previously swam in organized programs and want to improve their stroke. Christian can help anyone learn and improve no matter the level of experience they have.
Some of Christian’s accomplishments include: World University Games 2003 and Pan American Games 2007 for Team USA; 2012-2013 SC and LC World Championships qualifier and 2012 Olympian for Mexico in the 200 meter Breaststroke.
Christian’s passion is swimming and he can’t wait to help more swimmers improve and enjoy their swimming experience!