Kristen Cunnane’s journey with the California Golden Bears began in 2005 when she accepted an opportunity to work alongside Head Coach Teri McKeever while earning her Master’s Degree in Education at UC Berkeley through an NCAA Post Graduate scholarship. “The journey that has kept me here since then has been remarkable.”  Thanks to her passion and commitment,evident in the team’s success, Kristen was named Assistant Coach in April of 2007 and was further promoted to Associate Head Coach in December 2011.  In her time at CAL, Cunnane has helped the bears to three NCAA Championships and two Conference Titles, both of which eluded the program previous to her arrival.  

When Kristen talks about the impact the team, her athletes and Teri McKeever have had on her own life, it is easy to see that she is a leader by example. “We make a commitment to our athletes to help them in their journey of personal growth and we spend significant time in this arena.”  Coach Cunnane emanates a sense of personal strength and fortitude that would inspire any young college athlete to achieve more than they ever thought possible.  Her ease and compassion stems from her own experience in confronting a past trauma that would have left many alone and silent.  “For me, coaching at CAL, being with the team, and working with Teri, I have grown strong enough to accept the reality of my past.”  

As an adolescent, Kristen was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her coach and P.E. teacher.  The abuse lasted for three years.  In December 2011, nearly 10 years later, Coach Cunnane watched as her abuser was sentenced to 8 years in prison.  “I will never forget  going to testify at the preliminary hearing less than 48 hours after we won the NCAA Championship in 2011 and [Teri] telling me outside of the courthouse, ‘Just remember what we just did...hang on to that.’  For this fight, Teri has been my coach.”  As Kristen tells the story of the time leading up the conviction, there is no doubt that the concept of teamwork permeates CAL’s

Coach Cunnane’s personal accomplishments off deck simply demonstrate the integrity and authenticity she brings to her swimmers.  “My job at CAL is to help my athletes see what they want to accomplish, envision who they want to become, and help them believe that they are capable of personal greatness.  Then….I hold them accountable.”  


Carol Capitani, University of Georgia

Rachel Komisarz, University of Louisville

Kate Kovenock , Notre Dame University

Matt Leach, University of Wyoming

Chris Lindauer, University of Louisville

Chris Mantilla, Florida International University Diving

Marie Marsman, Indiana University

Michael Sabala, Columbia University

Photo: (credit: Tim Binning/

Assistant Coach, Women’s team: Kristen Cunnane

by Meaghan Murphy