Entering her 21st season as head coach of the Boilermakers, Cathy-Wright Eger has established a reputation of producing outstanding student-athletes.
Since coming to Purdue in 1987, Wright-Eger has coached some of the best female swimmers in the Big Ten and the nation, including five Big Ten champions (Darlene Warta-Renie 1988 and 1990, Susan Wolfle 1991, Kim Fritsch 1993 and 1994, Lindsay Lange 2003, Carlene Takaki 2006).
Wright-Eger also has coached several All-Americans. Both Fritsch and Warta-Renie achieved All-America status during their time at Purdue, and 14 other Boilermakers have been received honorable mention status. Carlene Takaki was the most recent Boilermaker to attain this honor in 2007.
The veteran head coach also has guided several Purdue swimmers to success internationally. Former Boilermaker Gyongyver Lakos represented her native Hungary as an Olympian in both Atlanta and Sydney, as well as in the 2001 World University Games. Other Boilermakers coached by Wright-Eger who went on to international competition include Fritsch, Marisa Watts and Karina Bolanos. Wright-Eger also has coached ten United States Olympic Trial qualifiers during her tenure at Purdue. Takaki, Leah Pierce and Jennifer Lavers are Wright-Eger's most recent Olympic Trial qualifiers; Takaki will compete in the 100 butterfly, Lavers and Pierce in the 100 breaststroke in 2008.
Wright-Eger, who has guided swimmers to the NCAA championships 19 out of the last 20 years, owns an impressive dual-meet record of 145-84-2 (.632).
Making The Scene
Purdue was able to clinch a third-consecutive Top 25 showing at NCAA thanks to the effort placed by Takaki in the 200 fly. The senior, who began her Boilermaker career as a walkon, finished 11th in the nation with a varsity record breaking time of 1:58.09. Takaki qualified for the night swim after placing 15th in prelims at 1:58.58.
Prior to her NCAA performances, Wright-Eger was able to push Takaki to a fifth-place showing in the 100 fly and runner-up title in the 200 fly at the Big Ten Championships. Takaki just missed first place by .46 seconds.
While it's a shame Takaki, a three-time NCAA qualifier, won't be able to return again as a Boilermaker, Wright-Eger has been mentoring a trio of student-athletes who may be able to take Takaki's place at the national level.
Leah Henninger, Christine Inman and Leah Pierce didn't exactly explode onto the scene in 2006-07, but they made enough steady progress and scored enough points during the dual season to make Wright-Eger take notice.
Pierce is one-third of a stellar breaststroke group that is also comprised of seniors Jennifer Lavers and Shannon Grace. Pierce led Purdue in the 100 breast with a top time of 1:03.45, which ranked her fourth all-time in program history. The Columbia, Mo., native was nearly as effective in the 200 breast, topping out at 2:17.77.
Henninger has her work cut out for her entering 2007-08. Both Susan Hentschel and Kimbre Vogel have graduated, leaving Henninger as the team's top returning swimmer in the 100 and 200 free. Henninger's top times last season were both recorded at the Big Ten Championships, posting a 52.34 in the 100 free and 1:53.35 in the 200 free.
The loss of Takaki in the fly events will be a grave one, unless Inman can continue to build on her freshman efforts. And unlike Henninger, Inman will have more available support by swimming alongside seniors Lauren Hyman and Stacie Lesneski. Inman's top times included a 56.75 in the 100 fly and 2:06.21 in the 200 fly.
In addition to last year's freshman class and breaststroke group, second-year Boilermaker Nicole Weatherman also served as a point of pride for Wright-Eger.
A transfer from the University of Alabama, Weatherman picked up her pace in the distance freestyle events and was able to score for Purdue at Big Ten's in the mile (16:53.95). The last Boilermaker to score points in the 1650 free was Erica Chandler, who placed 15th in 2004 with her mark of 16:48.85.
Wright-Eger was impressed with how Weatherman continued to push herself in this race and make adjustments where it was needed. For her senior season, Weatherman will be expected to improve on her times in both distance races and score in both the 500 and 1650.
Holding an overall program grade-point average of 3.5, Wright-Eger's teams consistently place well in the classroom in addition to the pool. Since her arrival, 220 swimmers and divers have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, an average of more than 10 student-athletes per season. In March of 2007, 18 of 24 (75 percent) eligible Boilermakers received Academic All-Big Ten Certificates.
In addition, 40 Purdue women have either been named (CSCAA or CoSIDA) Academic All-America or honorable mention Academic All-America. Senior Kimbre Vogel clinched a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-America At-Large second team in May of 2007 for posting a perfect grade-point average through her four years at Purdue.
As a team, the Boilermakers have ranked consistently at or near the top among Purdue's varsity teams in terms of GPA. In fact, Wright-Eger's teams have been the recipients of Purdue's President's Cup award (presented to intercollegiate athletics teams with the highest GPA) four times since the trophy's inception in 1998.
Wright-Eger is no stranger to personal honors and recognition. Since coming to Purdue, she has been selected as the Big Ten Women's Swimming Coach of the Year (1990), the Boilermaker Coach of the Year by the Purdue Club of Chicago (1993), and was handed the 1996 Salute to Women Award, given annually by the local YWCA. In 2001, Wright-Eger was featured as one of three coaches in Sports Illustrated for Women, in an article focusing on being a mother and coach at the same time.
In the spring of 2007, Wright-Eger was accorded the honor of joining the U.S. Swim Team as its manager for the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was Wright-Eger's fourth time serving on an international games' staff and her second trip to Rio in as many years. Last summer, Wright-Eger managed the U.S. Swim Team at the FINA World Youth Championships. In 2003 and 2005, she held the title of manager for Team USA at the World University Games in South Korea and Turkey.
Wright-Eger represented United States Swimming at the third-annual Women in Coaching Summit, which took place in Colorado Springs, Colo., in Oct. of 2004.
A native of Lafayette, Ind., Wright-Eger has been involved in the sport of swimming her entire life. Graduating from Lafayette Jefferson High School, she was a part of the school's 1975 state championship women's swimming and diving team. After graduation, she attended Ball State University and earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1982.
From 1983 to 1985, Wright-Eger was a school teacher at her alma mater, Lafayette Jefferson. In addition to her duties in the classroom, she also served as the school's head swimming coach, an experience that led her to a career in coaching.
Wright-Eger left Lafayette for a brief period (1985-1987) to be an assistant coach at the University of Iowa before returning to take the reins of the Boilermaker program in 1987.
Wright-Eger and her husband, Rob, reside in West Lafayette with their sons, Tyler, 19, and Tory, 13.