Wildcats have history of strong performances at conference meet
Alik Sarkisian was named Northwestern's head men's and women's diving coach prior to the 2006-07 season, and is in his seventh year at the helm of the diving corps. Sarkisian joined the Wildcats after five years as the Director and Head Coach at the USA Diving Regional Training Center.
In his first season at the helm, Sarkisian coached men's divers Ryan McIntosh and Alex Kiaie to scoring performances in all three diving events at the Big Ten Championships. His divers from both squads qualified for NCAA Zone Diving competition.
Sarkisian repeated that effort with his divers in 2007-08, with McIntosh and Kiaie again scoring on all three boards. On the women's side, fifth-year senior Leanne Dumais returned from a medical hardship season to reach the finals on both spring boards for the first time in her career. She became the first NU women's diver ever to finish in the top-eight in both the 1-meter and 3-meter events at the same Big Ten Championships.
In his first collegiate head coaching job, Sarkisian quickly is learning the recruiting ropes, as well. He brought in a pair of highly touted women's divers for the 2008-09 season, while also attracting talented transfer Kalister Harmon to the men's team. He then signed Felicitas Lenz to the women's team for the 2009-10 season; Lenz participated in the 2009 AT&T National Diving Championship in addition to racking up three top-10 finishes at the Speedo Junior National Diving Championship during the summer of 2009. NU's incoming class arriving in 2010-11 was comprised of three divers on each of the men's and the women's sides, its largest class of divers in recent memory.
That recruiting paid immediate dividends in 2009-10 when Lenz scored points in all three diving events at the Big Ten Championships, improving her score from the prelims to the finals in all three as well. She then narrowly missed the NCAA Championships, taking fifth on the platform at the NCAA Zone 'C' meet.
Sarkisian recruited Lenz's younger sister, Cosima, to Northwestern as part of that 2010-11 class, and she immediately gave the Wildcats two scoring threats in every event. Both Lenz sisters recorded top-10 finishes on the platform at the 2011 NCAA Zone 'C' meet, with Cosima placing sixth and Felicitas coming in ninth. The trio of Northwestern freshmen men showed vast improvement as the year unfolded, setting the stage for great things from the group in their remaining three seasons in Evanston.
Felicitas earned All-Big Ten honors with a runner-up finish on the platform at the 2012 Big Ten Championships, the first such accolade for NU since the 2006 season.
Sarkisian owns a wealth of head coaching experience. He began his coaching career as the USSR National Team coach from 1980-1990 before becoming the National Team coach in his native Armenia from 1991-93.
He then moved to the United States where he was an assistant with Rose Bowl Aquatics in Pasadena, Calif., from 1993-98 before assuming the head coaching position with the Trojan Dive Club and the assistant coaching job at USC from 1998-2001.
Sarkisian has earned a number of coaching accomplishments within USA and international diving, most notably serving as the USA National Team Coach for the 2003 and 2005 Pan-Am Games. He has coached at numerous FINA Grand Prix events and Olympic trials and training camps. In 1996, he was Armenia's National Team coach at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
In 2008, Sarkisian served as Team USA's head coach at the Grand Prix meet in Moscow, Russia. He also was a selector at the U.S. Olympic Selection Camp for the 2008 Beijing Games and a judge at the 2008 Olympic Trials.
A 13-time Armenian national champion, Sarkisian competed internationally for the USSR. He graduated in 1980 with professional level training in sports science and education from the USSR State University of Physical Education in Yerevan, Armenia.