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It was a matter of time, and Canyons Aquatic Club knew it.

The most prolific head coach in the swim club’s history, Coley Stickels, announced over the weekend he will be leaving for a position at Indiana University.

Since Stickels took over in 2012, the majority of the club’s records have been broken, two Canyons swimmers won 18-and-under national championships and Abbey Weitzeil emphatically broke onto the international stage.

“With success like that it was only a matter of time before major programs would come calling,” Canyons said in a statement on its website.

Stickels will leave Canyons in June, he told The Signal on Saturday. He will become the Hoosiers’ associate head sprints coach effective July 1, according to the school, taking over for the retiring Dennis Dale.

“Coley Stickels has distinguished himself as one of the finest sprint coaches, not only in the United States, but the world,” Indiana head coach Ray Looze said in a statement on Indiana’s official athletics website.

Canyons echoed the sentiment.

“Coley has made the Canyons name and logo a familiar site across the nation,” the club’s statement reads.

Weitzeil — a Saugus High graduate who’s made waves nationally and internationally since 2013 — starred at last summer’s U.S. Olympic trials and then won gold and silver medals in Rio as part of two relay teams.

Stickels also helped Valencia High senior Nikol Popov reach her potential as the No. 5 girls swimming recruit in the nation, according to SwimSwam.com.

Popov recently signed with the University of Tennessee.

“Who I am as an athlete today, I owe it all to him,” Popov said Monday. “I was with him my entire high school carer (and that’s) where I saw the most improvement.”

Popov said she most appreciated Stickels’ never-settle mindset.

“I could go a best time, and I go talk to him and he’ll say, ‘You can go way faster than that. Forget that. We can go faster,’” she said.

The Canyons board of directors has begun a nationwide search to fill Stickels’ position.

“The intention is to take time and do it right,” the club said. “…We expect several top level coaches to apply for the job.”

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Mason Nesbitt
Mason Nesbitt is The Santa Clarita Valley Signal's Sports Editor.
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