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Meet Our Team

Rick Paine

Rick is the co-founder of American College Connection. He has coached club swimming for 28 years and has served as an Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for 17 years at a major Division I university. During his tenure there, Rick personally coached 9 Olympians, 37 NCAA All-Americans, and National Champions in 11 different countries (including the United States). He had the honor of serving as one of the Olympic Head Coaches for the Austrian Olympic Team in 2000, and also served on the staffs at the Helsinki and Istanbul European Championships. Most recently, Rick was formally inducted into the Midwestern Swimming LSC Hall of Fame (2015).

 

Rick loves listening to music with his wife and working out.

Lori Payne

Lori is a true water baby, having grown up under the sun of S Florida, and the umbrella of wonderful coaches. Recruited in high school as a distance swimmer, she swam at UNC-Chapel Hill: took the ‘mandatory time off after college’ and reinvented herself as a USMS master swimmer. She has been a part of masters since 1991 in many different capacities on the local and national level.With a degree in sports management, and thirty years of coaching experience at all levels, Lori knows just what makes the student athlete recruiting process successful.

 

Her free time is spent with her family of kids and dogs. Her passions include travel, music and anything outdoors or water related.

Melynda Nash

Having been an educator and student outreach advisor for over 20 years, Melynda brings a wealth of knowledge to our team which helps our student-athletes understand the academic side of recruiting. Her extensive knowledge of navigating the education system at all academic levels, and passion for helping students reach their highest potential and be successful greatly enhances ACC’s ongoing commitment to helping student-athletes find the best all-around fit for college. Melynda is a veteran of the United States Navy.

Melynda enjoys reading, boating, and camping with her husband, Rob, and her two fur babies, Bella and Max. She has 3 children: Holly, Jake, and Amanda along with 2 grandbabies, McKenna and Camden

Penny Heyns

As an international swimmer, Penny Heyns established herself as the world’s greatest female breaststroker of the 20th century by becoming the only woman in Olympic history to win both the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events and by breaking 14 individual world records during her career. Penny is now a motivational speaker / mentor and teams with ACC to connect international swimmers with the US for a chance to study and compete in America.

Kevin Weldon

Coach Kevin Weldon is one of the country’s most experienced competition swim professionals. With 33 years leading the Dayton Raiders, Coach Kevin has developed: 30 Olympic Trials qualifiers (2 Top 8 Finalists), 4 National Age Group record holders, 2 Senior National Champions, 40 State High School Champions, 12 Ohio State High School record holders, 1000+ Swimmers who’ve competed in the Ohio High School State Meet.  The 2018 International Swim Coach Association Hall of Fame inductee has also helped his swimmers acquire more than 1-Million-Dollars in athletic scholarships over the course of his career.  Before coaching the Raiders, Coach Kevin was the head coach for the Sunkist Swim Team (1985-1989) and the Kankakee YMCA (1984-1985). He was also a University of Nebraska Men’s assistant coach (1981-1984).  Coach Kevin hopes to provide a safe and positive sports experience for all Raider athletes, and the opportunity for each swimmer to achieve their full potential. The Dayton Raiders are a 3 time USA Swimming Gold Medal Level Club of Excellence under his leadership.

Kevin is married to his wife Lana and they live in Beavercreek, Ohio  They have 2 daughters and 4 grandkids.

When Kevin is not on deck coaching or working with ACC swimmers, he enjoys working out, reading, and movie-watching.

Maria Ines Flores

Maria is an Olympic gymnast, nutritional coach, and public speaker. She was the Central American champion 1986-88, the only female gymnast in the Pan Am Games (Indianapolis 87) to have competed in four event finals, and the first Central American gymnast to have competed in Olympic games (Seoul 88).

 

Maria left Guatemala City and moved to the USA when she turned 12 to train at a leading gymnastic academy in Houston, TX.  Maria suffered an extensive injury and after surgery and recovery she competed four more years, until her retirement.

 

After gymnastics, Maria Ines took up cheerleading and karate, competing in both but not at the level of gymnastics.  She also coached gymnastics for three years and delivered balance beam clinics in Guatemala City, Austin, TX, and San Jose, Costa Rica.

 

Maria Ines graduated from Francisco Marroquin University with a BA in Business Management and obtained her MBA from the University of Texas, Austin.  She worked in Marketing, Business Consulting, and then founded a bilingual staffing company.  She also taught Leadership and Organizational Development at Francisco Marroquin University and Universidad del Istmo (UNIS).

 

Having suffered from binge eating disorder as a result of extreme dieting and high levels of pressure when she was an athlete, Maria Ines faced body image issues ad struggled with her weight in her post-gymnastics years.  She eventually created a system for implementing nutrition and lifestyle changes and turning them into habits, which led her to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, great performance, and eliminate all stress around food.

 

After 20 years in marketing, management, and consulting, she did a complete shift to Nutrition and Health, obtained her Certification in Nutritional Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York, and founded Let’s Be Fit Today, whose mission is to help young athletes incorporate nutrition and lifestyle changes to boost their health, performance, and confidence.

 

Maria Ines has been active in Nutrition Education in Central America and the USA, delivering engaging presentations and workshops at schools, athletic clubs, not-for-profits, youth ministry groups, associations, and universities.  She is passionate about helping young athletes, kids, and teenagers harness the power of nutrition to feel and perform at their very best while enjoying stress-free, healthy eating, and a positive body image.

 

Maria Ines lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband, Roberto Bonilla, a two-time Olympic swimmer, and their four children, all of whom practice competitive sports.  Her son, Roberto Bonilla Flores, is a Junior-Pan-American Games medalist in the 400m IM, 200m Breaststroke, and 200m Butterfly.

 

Maria Ines volunteers with The Woodlands Rotary Club and TWST Swim Team.  She enjoys long walks, strength training, reading, and being outdoors.

James Barber

James is a Recruiting Coordinator for American College Connection. With 30 years of leadership experience coaching at all levels, including the Olympic Training Center, Florida State University, and the University of Alabama, James has experience with both operation and executive leadership. Under his direction, athletes earned over 100 All-American honors, including the 2007 ACC Male Swimmer of the Year, multiple SEC First and Second Team Athletes, multiple National Team representatives, and International Meet Participants and Finalist (Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan-Pac, European Championships, Commonwealth Games.) His recruitment strategies led to unprecedented athlete progression in multiple events – taking walk-ons to SEC Records and NCAA Champion performances.

Hall of Fame Coach Dennis Pursley describes James as “having the X-factor as a coach along with the people skills necessary that makes him elite in the field.”

Scott Blanchard

Scott Blanchard is a Recruiting Coordinator with American College Connection. He has 30 years of coaching experience, with the past 14 years at the collegiate level. As head Swim and Dive coach, he guided the team through the first-ever transition from D III to D I in NCAA history. His understanding and experience within both divisions give him a unique perspective on the demands the athletes face. Building a “Family” culture and impressing the importance of education have been 2 hallmarks of Scott’s Collegiate career, creating a positive environment for his student-athletes to thrive in and having numerous Academic All-Americans and COSIDA Award winners shows that level of attention. He is passionate about helping student-athletes find their best fit academically and athletically.
Scott is married to his wife Jennifer, and they live in St Paul MN with their 2 children. Scott enjoys riding his gravel bike, spending time outside, and being with his family.