Rick Klatt (Swimming 1970-74)
Very few people have the ability to make an impact as both a player and a coach, let alone in two different sports. Fortunately for the University of New Mexico, Rick Klatt was capable of doing so. Take one look at the letters of recommendation for induction into the UNM Athletic Hall of Honor and you will be overwhelmed with the amount of support Rick has received from former coaches, teammates, and swimmers he has coached. Teammate and former swimmer, David Feld said, "The qualities which enabled him to become one of the great swimmers of his era were the same which contributed so much to his coaching success."
When Rick entered UNM as a freshman, his primary athletic background was as a basketball player and a swimmer. According to an article in the UNM Daily Lobo in 1973, he had never even seen a water polo ball before stepping foot on UNM's campus. That didn't seem to matter, as Rick quickly became one of the best individuals to ever represent UNM athletically, with his efforts in swimming and water polo. Often described as a fierce competitor, he worked hard to be the top athlete in the water.
It did not take long for Rick to get the hang of the game of water polo. Elected team captain by his teammates, he led the team in scoring and was a force on defense. To no one's surprise, he was named to the "All Tournament Team" seven times at several water polo tournaments, named an All-American in 1972, and helped lead the Lobos to the NCAA championship tournament on two separate occasions, finishing as high as fifth in the nation. Not bad for a guy who hadn't played the sport as long as the majority of his competitors.
In swimming, Rick was dominant. A Western Athletic Conference champion 10 times, his ability and work ethic helped UNM earn national recognition in the sport. In fact, he could have earned more WAC titles had it not been for an injury that kept him from competing in the WAC and NCAA Championships his sophomore season. His specialty was in freestyle events, in which he won the conference title in the 100m free and the 200m free. He also anchored the freestyle relays. He earned All-American status four times individually and four times as a relay member at the NCAA Championships.
Rick's swimming talents were not limited to national recognition. For many swimmers, world competitions are the pinnacle. Rick was given the opportunity to compete in the 1972 Olympic Trials. He placed 16th in the 200 free. In 1973, Rick was selected to the first World Swimming Championship team that competed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Such a high honor would be an achievement in itself, but Rick went above and beyond by being selected as the team captain. Competing in the 800m freestyle relay, Rick and his teammates shattered the world record at the meet. Rick recorded the fastest split time.
His talents and passion for swimming and water polo continued to shine following his competing days at UNM. He was selected as the UNM men's and women's swim and water polo coach. Transitioning from being a teammate and peer to many of the UNM swimmers and water polo players to becoming their coach is not an easy task. According to those swimmers and water polo players, Rick accomplished the task admirably. Tom Daulton said, "I am fortunate to have been a teammate of Rick's as well as a swimmer and polo player under his guidance as a coach. While I didn't have his skills, I saw firsthand how hard he worked and how determined he was to succeed. It was a great motivator. That spirit of hard work and believe in ones-self created a foundation that has served me well over the last 30 years."
Rick continues to make a lasting impression on the two sports that he excelled in. He went on to coach numerous NCAA All-Americans, Junior National finalists, Olympic athletes, and run several aquatic organizations. Mary Gen Ledecky, another one of Rick's former swimmers, said "...the Klatt name is famous in California because of Rick's superior coaching." There is no doubt that Rick has earned his place amongst the names of Lobo greats and has made an impact on the University of New Mexico Athletic History.