Diana Caskey’s 23 years as head coach of the Columbia women’s swimming coach have been highlighted by a multitude of record-breaking performances and monumental accomplishments. Caskey stands out among her peers within the Ivy League as the only women’s coach to recruit an Olympic Gold Medalist and NCAA champion in Cristina Teuscher ’00CC.
Under the direction of Diana Caskey, Columbia woomen's swimming are off to a stellar 2013-14 campaign. For the first time in program history, the Lions clinched the Ivy League dual-meet regular season title with a 7-0 record. En route to their first undefeated season, Columbia began the year with its first win over Harvard in program history. A 163.5-137.5 victory over the Crimson gave the Lions an incredible spark to start the season.
“This is an extremely exciting moment for the program,” said Caskey. “A lot of the credit goes to the senior leadership that has made the whole team accountable.”
Columbia had a standout year in 2012-13, finishing 21st at the NCAA Championships, the highest of any Ivy League school. Senior Katie Meili and junior Alena Kluge both qualified for the NCAA Championships with Meili recording three top-10 finishes. At the Ivy League Championships, Meili earned her second consecutive Swimmer of the Meet honor, picked up three individual Ivy League records and was a member of the 400 medley relay team that set the conference mark. With stellar performances from the entire team, the Lions scored their highest point total at an Ivy League Championship, en route to a third-place finish.
In 2011-12, the Caskey-led Lions defeated Princeton for the first time in the program’s 28-year history. Competing at Princeton’s Denunzio Pool, Columbia posted a 173-127 victory over the Tigers. Columbia opened the Ivy League Championship with victories in the 200 free and 400 medley, while Meili stormed the meet with five titles of her own. The junior made Ancient Eight history, becoming the first woman to break the 1:00 mark in the 100 breast. She also eclipsed the Ivy League and Teuscher’s school record in the 200 IM.
The 2010-2011 season marked the third time in school history that the Lions placed third at the Ivy League Championships. Meili won her first Ivy League championship in the 200 IM and all seventeen swimmers who competed at the event achieved at least one best time at the meet. A trio of Lions set school records at the competition.
Six wins highlighted the 2010-11 season, including Ancient Eight wins over Penn, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth. A third-place finish at the Harvard Invitational highlighted the opening part of the schedule.
Records fell and the wins stacked up for Columbia in 2008-09. A total of nine new school records were set, including a new Uris pool record in the 200 free relay. The Lions competed at a consistently high level throughout the season, matching the program record of nine dual victories set in 2007-08. A fifth-place showing as a team at the Ivy League Championship was buoyed by titles from Hannah Galey (100 free) and Allison Hobbs (100 fly). Columbia’s first nine-win season came in 2007-08, when the Lions went 9-2 overall and 5-2 in conference duals.
Caskey’s coaching career at Columbia began in 1991 when she served as the assistant coach of the Columbia men and women’s swim teams. She took over the women’s program the following year, beginning an illustrious career that has included numerous firsts for the Lions and the Ivy League.
In 1993, Caskey coached Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame member Danicia Ambron to the first-ever Ivy League title by a women’s swimmer. Ambron set program records in the 50 and 200 free, leading Columbia to a fourth-place finish, the best finish for the Lions since joining the Ancient Eight in 1986. Ambron capped the 1993 season with a trip to the NCAA Championships, becoming the first Columbia women’s swimmer to compete on the national stage.
Caskey’s cemented her legacy as one of the best coaches in the Ivy League when she recruited Olympic gold medalist Cristina Teuscher to Morningside Heights. Tuescher earned a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics as a member of the American 800 free relay team, before joining the collegiate ranks. At Columbia, she was a two-time All-America recipient, four-time NCAA Champion, won 12 Ivy League titles and set 17 program records. Columbia honored Teuscher with the Maniatty Award as the Lions outstanding female senior student-athlete. On a national scale, she was voted the 2000 Honda-Broderick Cup winner as the best collegiate women’s athlete in the United States, the only Ivy league student to receive that distinction. Following her Columbia career, she returned to international competition, picking up a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in the 200 IM as the captain of the American squad.
In 2001, Caskey saw her third swimmer perform at nationals when Lucy Eccleston ’03BC qualified by winning the 200 butterfly at the Ivy League Championships in a school-record time of 2:00.43. Lauren Morford '07CC added an Ivy League championship in 2004 in the 1000 freestyle, and 2008 saw the 200-yard medley relay team of Lauren Fraley, Amy Krakauer, Hobbs, and Galey capture the Ivy League title.
Prior to Columbia, Caskey spent three years at her prep school alma mater, The Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., teaching English and assisting with both the school and USS club teams. During her tenure, the school team won two National High School championships. At the club level, Peddie Aquatics placed second in two Senior National Championships. Caskey coached two Olympians, as well as numerous Olympic qualifiers, NCAA finalists, USS National Champions and senior and junior national qualifiers.
A 1985 graduate of Princeton University, Caskey was a standout swimmer for the Tigers, earning All-America and All-Ivy League honors. She held the Princeton record in the 500 free for 14 years and led off the 800 free relay that won the AIAW Intercollegiate Championships in 1982. Before graduating from Peddie in 1981, she also enjoyed a fine prep swimming career. As the team captain, she set school records in both the 200 and 500 free and won Peddie’s scholar-athlete award.
Caskey and her husband, Larry Good, reside in Morningside Heights with their daughters, Sierra, 12, and Stella, 9.