Allan Hancock College women’s swimming and diving head coach Mike Ashmore recently received a special delivery in the mail. Inside a box addressed to him from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Ashmore received a special medal called the Order of Ikkos medal in recognition of Orcutt native Josh Prenot’s accomplishments at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Prenot won a silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke, the first medal by an American male in the event in 12 years. Ashmore coached Prenot, a former Hancock student, for nine years with the Santa Maria Swim Club.
“I was shocked. It was awesome,” said Ashmore, who is in the middle of his fourth season as swimming and diving head coach at Hancock. “I immediately thought about all the years I spent coaching Josh, talking with him about his goals, and how much we both put into this to help him achieve his dreams.”
A letter from the USOC accompanied the medal. It explained how every American medalist selected a coach to honor. Josh had picked Ashmore.
“This medal symbolizes the contributions you’ve made to Josh’s performance and your dedicated support to your athletes. We’re pleased to formally recognize you as part of the Team Behind the Team, and a contributor to Team USA’s success in Rio,” the letter read. “As an Order of Ikkos recipient, you will be entered into the Ikkos Honor Roll of Coaches. This will further distinguish you in your coaching career. We’re grateful for your support and development of athletes like Josh.”
Prenot was just 9 years old when he started swimming with Ashmore and the Santa Maria Swim Club. It was a partnership that continued until Prenot was 18 and received a scholarship to swim at University of California, Berkeley. During their nine years together, Prenot earned a spot on Team USA for the Junior Pan Pacific Games and Junior World Championships. Prenot also qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. He never swam for Hancock, but he completed nearly one dozen classes at the college.
“I remember telling Josh after the trials and before he left for Cal to keep working hard and doing the right things and his dreams were his,” recalled Ashmore, who has had swimmers compete in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trials.
It turns out Prenot helped Ashmore fulfill his own dream of seeing a former athlete reach the pinnacle of his sport.
“Every coach wants to see his or her athletes play in the Super Bowl, the World Series or the Olympics,” stated Ashmore. “Watching Josh set an American record and make the Olympic team in the process was my proudest moment.”
Prenot set the American record in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke final during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials to qualify for his first Olympic team. His time of 2:07.17 was the second fastest ever in the event. Prenot went on to earn a silver medal in Rio. Ashmore said Prenot’s success caused a ripple effect in the Santa Maria swim community.
“The kids in the swim club are even hungrier to follow in his footsteps. They want to be the next swimmers from Santa Maria to make an Olympic team,” said Ashmore. “Swimmers in this area see competing in the Olympics as much more possible than they did nine months ago.”
Ashmore hasn’t settled on the perfect place in his house yet to hang his medal. He thinks there’s a pretty good shot Prenot will go for the gold during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Josh is detail oriented, dedicated and a hard and tireless worker. These are all skills that will serve him well and help him prepare for 2020,” said Ashmore.