West Virginia University men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Vic Riggs announced the addition of Karla Helder as the program’s head diving coach on Thursday.
Helder arrives in Morgantown after serving as the diving coach at San Jose State from 2018-20. While coaching at SJSU, Helder led every diver to personal-best scores on 1-meter and 3-meter springboard. During this time, she also served as the assistant diving coach and development coach for the Santa Clara Diving Club, where she facilitated meet management, diver progress reports, recruiting videos and parent communication.
“As I started the process of hiring a new coach to lead our diving program, Karla’s knowledge, experience and dedication to the sport of diving, as well as her holistic approach to coaching student-athletes, are what impressed me the most about her in our conversations,” Riggs said. “Not only do I believe Karla will challenge our divers to make them the best they can be on the boards, but her approach to mentoring her student-athletes is going to help prepare them for all aspects of their future endeavors. I’m excited to see how our diving program grows under Karla’s tutelage.”
Prior to her time with the Spartans, Helder spent 12 seasons as the diving coach at Buffalo, where she was instrumental in developing a strong diving program that featured school records for both the men’s and women’s teams. While at UB, she coached an Eastern College Athletics Conference (ECAC) men’s individual champion and two All-Mid-American Conference divers, including 13 regional qualifiers.
Helder coached a pair of Bulls to qualify for the NCAA championships for the first time in the program’s history and led the school’s only diver to compete at the Olympic Trials.
A two-time NCAA Division II National Diving Coach of the Year, Helder also spent nine seasons at the University of California at Davis, where she coached four national champions and 36 All-Americans. She was named the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference (PCSC) Men’s Diving Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2003, while also earning the conference’s 2001 Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award.
“Stepping into this role of head diving coach at WVU, with a program that has been well-established by Michael Grapner, is so exciting,” Helder said. “WVU’s swimming and diving program has engaged student-athletes and each have benefitted from training at the new facility at Mylan Park. The progress the divers have made thus far is strong, and I see new levels of achievement in our future. I look forward to being a part of this family of motivated divers and to bringing us to new heights of personal, academic and athletic success.”
Helder also has earned quite a few national and world diving titles herself, most recently at the 2008 U.S. Master’s Nationals, where she won her age group events, setting two new American records in the process, breaking her own records set in 2004. In May 2008, she traveled to Perth, Australia, for the World Master’s Diving Championships, where she won a pair of gold medals and broke both the 1-meter and 3-meter world records in her age group (50-54).
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Helder earned a Bachelor of Arts in physical education with a minor is psychology in 1982. During her college career, she was an NCAA Division I All-American and Academic All-American status, a two-time Division II individual national champion and a member of a Division II national championship team under coach Pete Accardy at CSU Northbridge.
Following her successful college career, the Suisun, California, native was inducted into the Chico State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.