Coaching Staff

Ellen Johnston
WRAT Head Coach
Ellen, who was named Head Coach in the spring of 2012, celebrated 25 years with the Water Rat Swim Team in 2011. (Click to see photos of her anniversary party, which the team held in June 2011.) Ellen joined the team in November 1986 as an assistant coach, working with swimmers at every level in the program. She quickly became a full-time assistant coach and was promoted to Senior Coach in 1990. Prior to working in Westport, Ellen coached the Bulldog Swim Club in Bowie, Maryland, where she was the Senior II and Head Age Group Coach. She also coached all levels of the South Carolina Aquatic Team in Columbia. In 2015, Ellen received the Larry Lyons YMCA National Coach of the Year Award, the highest recognition for YMCA coaches. She has twice been Connecticut Senior Coach of the Year and was nominated for the honor in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Ellen strives to help her swimmers mature as individuals as they progress from the age group to senior level and she encourages them to challenge themselves physically and mentally every day.

Scott VanKuilenburg
WRAT Head Age Group Coach

Scott joined the Water Rats as its Head Age Group Coach in the late summer of 2015. Scott most recently coached with the Central Florida Marlins in Ocala, Florida. Scott’s background includes active duty with the Air Force reaching the rank of Sergeant. He then headed off to the University of Tennessee where he received a Bachelor of Science in Education/Exercise Physiology. Scott utilized his education degree as an elementary school physical education teacher. Still an active swimmer, the lure of the water called to him and has been on deck with all levels of swimming from novice to NCAA qualifiers. Scott has experience of being able to work with the various levels of development and his ability to get each swimmer to understand a skill and then transfer that to practice and competition. His awareness that each team member grows and develops at their own pace falls right in with our team philosophy. Additionally, Scott understands that children need to be children and helps to teach the balance of life – school, swimming, other activities as well as growing up. His background with stroke mechanics is stellar and he has done a tremendous job in preparing swimmers from the early stages of swimming to seeing they are well prepared for the next step with a strong base as each swimmer prepares for the senior level of swimming

Assistant Coaches

During the 2016-2017 seasons, the following coaches will assist the full-time coaches:

Brandon Arias
Brandon joined the Water Rats staff in in 2014. He is a 2006 graduate of Staples High School, where he was a member of the boys swim and water polo teams. He attended Springfield College as a biology major where he continued to swim competitively in the distance freestyle and butterfly events. Prior to joining the coaching staff Brandon coached the Staples Boys and Girls Water polo teams and taught swim lessons at the Y.

Omar Cruz
Omar joins the Water Rat family as an assistant with the senior practice groups the Fall of 2016. Most recently, Omar spent 15 years as Head Coach with the Zeus Swim Team where he has had much success on a local, regional, and national level. Omar left ZEUS as he has become managing partner of Executive Real Estate Premier Properties, a real estate business in Westport. Helping with the senior team a couple of days a week allows Omar to continue to follow his passion of coaching, but also to spend the time needed to be successful with his real estate business and more importantly, to spend time with his family.

Frisk Driscoll
Frisk, who was a Water Rat for more than 10 years, is a graduate of Staples High School, where he was a co-captain of the Boys Swim Team. While attending Staples, Frisk earned All-American honors and was a finalist at the YMCA National Swimming Championship. Later, Frisk swam for UConn, where he excelled in distance events. During three straight years, he made finals in the 1650 Freestyle at the Big East Conference Championships. Frisk also enjoys swimming in open water. He finished first in the Westport Y Compo Point to Point three times, and his relay team came in first three times in Swim Across the Sound, the St. Vincent’s Hospital fundraiser. Frisk, who has been the head coach of the Staples Boys Swim Team since 2012, was named FCIAC Coach of the Year in 2014.

Kristen Finnegan
Kristen is a graduate of Bunnell High School and St. John’s University. She began swimming competitively at the age of six and continued to swim through college. She started working at the Family YMCA in 2006 as a swim instructor, spending eight summers working at the Y’s Hafaday swim program. In 2012, Kristen joined the swim team staff as an assistant coach, specializing in the 8/Under program and the team’s pre-competitive programs. But she still loves teaching. Several afternoons a week, she gives swim lessons to future Water Rats.

Caitlyn Hracs
Caitlyn, who joined the Water Rat coaching staff in 2014, has been a competitive swimmer for more than 17 years. She started swimming for the Trumbull Pisces when she was four and later moved to the SoNoCo Swim Club. A graduate of Trumbull High School, where she was captain of the swim team, Caitlyn won an athletic scholarship to Sacred Heart University, which she represented at conference and NCAA championships. While she was a college student, Caitlyn developed the Cardinal Shehan Center Sharks Swim Team and was the assistant coach of the Fairfield YMCA Fly Fins. Caitlyn continues to compete in open water events (she participated in the 2014 Swim Across the Sound a few weeks after graduating from Sacred Heart) and she recently was certified as a Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Peter Mesavage
Peter, who joined the Water Rat coaching staff in 2008, started swimming at the Stratford YMCA when he was five years old. He later swam for the Stratford Y Sea Dogs for 13 years, attending YMCA Nationals multiple times. During high school at Fairfield Prep, Peter was named the Class LL Championship Most Outstanding swimmer and he was named All-American both his junior and senior years. He went on to swim for the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied history. Peter competed in the NCAA Division III Nationals where he again earned All-American status as a college athlete. After graduating, Peter founded Mesavage Painting LLC.

Erin Ritz
Erin joins the staff as an assistant coach the Fall of 2016. Erin is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, where she swam for 10 years with the Hampton Dolphins and was a Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association qualifier. Erin then became 8 & Under Coach for the Hampton Dolphins and an Assistant Coach at the Pittsburgh Field Club. Erin began coaching in Connecticut with the New Canaan YMCA where she was the Head Pride Coach. She then worked for three seasons coaching for the Greenwich YWCA Dolphins where she was an assistant coach to all groups. While in Greenwich, she worked with Olympic Trials Swimmers, CT Resident Record Holders and National Age Group Record Holders. Erin will be joining the Sacred Heart University Pioneers as an Assistant Coach this fall. She spent Summer 2015 as the Assistant Coach at Shore and Country Club and head Pre-Team Coach, and is now the Head Coach at the Milbrook Club in Greenwich, CT. Erin is also proud to represent CT Swimming as the Senior Coach Representative. She was the Junior Coach Representative for the 2015-2016 season. In addition, she was elected as a CTSwim Eastern Zones Coach for two seasons in 2015-2016. Erin graduated from UConn in the Fall of 2015 and is now working towards her Masters of Education and Secondary Teacher Certification in General Science. Erin is no stranger to the Water Rat family as she has been coaching the Water Rat Special Olympic swim team. Erin will be helping throughout the team but primarily with the 8 & unders.

Marta Taddeo
Marta returns to the Water Rat staff the Fall of 2016 as Dr. Marta Taddeo having just successfully defended her paper for acceptance as a PhD in the world of science. Marta has been coaching since 2003, most recently as the Head Development Coach, Assistant Age Group Coach and Senior Coach at the Zeus Swim Team. She previously coached all age levels of the Water Rats from 2003-2010. As Marta looks to get out into the world of research, she will be helping across the board with a number of our practice groups.

Robert Urban
Robert, who joined the staff in the spring of 2015, is a native of Trumbull. Rob is currently enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, where he expects to graduate in 2016 with a degree in accounting. Since 2011, Robert has been the head coach of the Stratford YMCA (BSY) Swim Team, growing the team from 25 swimmers in his initial year to 86 in 2015 and re-establishing the team as a fully recognized USA Swimming program. He also had 15 swimmers qualify for New England YMCA Championships, all working out of a 3-lane pool. Rob brings experience, knowledge and energy and is a great addition to our coaching staff.

Janelle Atkinson-Wignall

Janelle joined the Water Rat Swim Team as an assistant coach in the late spring of 2015. Janelle will be working with the team on a seasonal basis. She is currently the Head Coach of the Fairfield University Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. She is the first female head coach in that team’s history. Previously Janelle was an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut, helping the team set numerous records. Before joining the Huskies, Atkinson-Wignall spent four seasons at Wright State University. On the international stage, Atkinson-Wignall was selected as the head coach for the Jamaican National Team at the 2009 Swimming World Championships in Rome, Italy. In July 2013, USA Swimming appointed her Head Coach for the first Southern Zone Diversity Summer Select Camp. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Atkinson-Wignall is a two-time Olympian who competed in the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games. She finished fourth in the 400-meter freestyle and ninth in the 800-meter freestyle in Sydney. She medaled at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia, and the 1999 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. In addition, she is a seven-time recipient of the Jamaican Swimmer of the Year award and a six-time nominee for the Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year. The 1999-2000 National High School Swimmer of the Year, Atkinson-Wignall earned 10 All-America honors while competing at the University of Florida. She received three First Team All-Southeastern Conference accolades, had three top-three finishes in three years at the NCAA Championships, and was a three-time SEC Champion. Atkinson-Wignall, who graduated in 2005, was also part of the 2002 team that became SEC Champions and was on the SEC Academic Honor Roll four times.

Adrienne Williams
Team Administrator
Adrienne’s current role is as the Team Administrator. She joined the Water Rats in this capacity in February 2015.  She is involved in team registration, meet management, team apparel orders, communications between swim families, the coaching staff, and Y staff, and maintaining the team’s website. She served as Co-President of the Westport Water Rats Parents’ Club from September 2011 to August 2014. She served as the Meet Chair from September 2009 – August 2011 and helped managed and planned all aspects of team-hosted swim meets working with the Head Coach and meet managers. Adrienne’s children have grown up with the Water Rats program and one of them is now swimming in college. Adrienne has her Law Degree from George Washington University and B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She practiced law for thirteen years before staying at home to raise her children and becoming a swim mom.