Coaches and Directors

Meet the Quest Coaching Staff:

Coaching Staff
Chad Onken CEO & Co-Owner

Chad Onken is the CEO and Co-Owner of the Quest Swimming program in his hometown of Midlothian, Virginia. He started with Quest on January 1st, 2019.

Primarily known for the discovery and development of world record holder, NCAA Champion, and 2008/2012 US Olympic Gold Medalist Cullen Jones, Chad has over 20 years of elite championship coaching experience throughout age group, high school, YMCA, and NCAA championship swimming. In addition to being a Level 5 certified coach by the American Swimming Coaches Association, Chad is also a six-time recipient of the ASCA "Award for Coaching Excellence."

In addition to his duties with Quest, Onken also serves as the Director of International Clinics for the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA). He travels the globe, "coaching the coaches". He has taught clinics or been a guest speaker throughout the United States, as well as on 6 of the 7 continents.

Additionally, Onken has been an active member of various committees and governance organizations within the YMCA of the USA, NC Swimming, VA swimming and USA Swimming. Besides being a current member of the USA Swimming Coach Advisory Council, he also serves as a member of the VSI Senior Committee and Governance Committee.

Before Quest, Chad served as the Head Coach/Senior Director of Competitive Swimming at the YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA) Swim Team in Raleigh, NC from 2006-2018. During his time with the YOTA Swim Team, Chad oversaw the "Golden Age" of the program; breaking several North Carolina state records, coaching a USA Swimming Junior National champion, recording numerous USA Swimming Junior and Senior National time standards, breaking 100+ YOTA team records, winning dozens of YMCA National individual and relay titles, setting a number of YMCA National records, and breaking 3 National Age Group records. Chad led a group of six YOTA athletes to Olympic Trials in 2012 and seven YOTA athletes to Omaha in 2016. YOTA also had success on the international level as well, having multiple athletes qualify to represent the United States in a variety of international competitions. The YMCA of the Triangle Area Swim Team had athletes qualify for the 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2014-2015 USA National Junior Teams.

Additionally, the YOTA Swim Team was crowned the 2010, 2011, and 2012 Men's YMCA National Champions and 2014 Women’s YMCA National Champions under Coach Onken's leadership. Chad's success has been recognized by USA Swimming, as he was selected to be on the coaching staff for a variety of national teams and select camps. Chad has also been nominated for several Coach of the Year awards, both within NC and throughout the country - winning the 2012 NC Swimming "Coach of the Year" award.

Chad graduated from Florida State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice; while helping the swimming team achieve top 10 finishes at the NCAA Championships and qualifying for Olympic Trials. Given a choice to attend law school or coach swimming, Chad decided to give back to a sport that gave him so much.

Chad moved to Raleigh in 2000 as the Head Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at NC State University. In addition to his regular on-deck duties for the Wolfpack, Onken played an instrumental role in the strength and conditioning, team building, mental training, nutritional education and academic development of the swimmers at N.C. State. While at N.C. State, Chad was the primary coach responsible for developing one USA Swimming National “B” Team Member, six US Olympic Trial qualifiers, six NCAA All-Americans, six ACC Champions, 10 school record holders, and five top 100 FINA World Ranked athletes. Furthermore, Onken served as the Head Coach for the N.C. State Aquatics Team during the summertime, where two of his athletes represented the United States in international competition. Chad was also very involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Athletes In Action program.

After five years at N.C. State, Coach Onken became the Assistant Swimming Coach/Recruiting Coordinator at national powerhouse Auburn University. During his stint with the Tigers, Onken helped the team capture both the men’s and women’s 2006 NCAA team championship titles. In addition to various administrative and recruiting duties, Chad helped coach seven NCAA Champions, 34 NCAA All-Americans, 13 SEC Champions and 13 Auburn school record-holders.

Having coached alongside some of the best coaches in the business, Chad considers both David Marsh and Dudley Duncan to be his two primary mentors. 

Chad is very happily married to the former Lauren Romano, also of Midlothian, Virginia. They are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Marilyn and Charlotte and also have an adorable schnoodle puppy named Bowden.

John Smithson Competitive Swimming Director & Co-Owner

Coach John came to Quest Swimming in 2004 when then Owner/Head Coach Dudley Duncan took over the program. Dudley Duncan is best known for his development of Olympians Whitney Hedgepeth (1988&1996) and Rada Owen (2000). 

During his time, his guidence has helped Quest Swimming grow from 65 athletes in 2003-2004 to between 270-290 athletes annually. Quest Swimming was recognized as a USA Swimming Silver Medal Club (2018) making it one of the Top 100 Club programs in the country. In 2021 Quest was recognized as a TOP 100 Age Group Program by the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA). 

Coach John has been part of the development of athletes from Quest to the 2008 Olympic Trials(1), 2012 Olympic Trials(2), 2016 Olympic Trials(6) and 2020 Olympic Trials(3). Quest Swimming also became the home of USA Swimming National Team Member and 5-Time NCAA All American Clark Beach, 8-Time NCAA All American and American Record Holder (50 Fly) Maddy Banic, and 2-Time NCAA All American and American Record Holder (800 Free Relay) Jeff Newkirk. 

Athletes from Quest have gone onto become Olympic Trials Qualifiers, Junior National Champions, Junior National Qualifiers, and State Record Holders and Qualifiers.

Coach John was voted as the Virginia Swimming Senior Coach of the Year in 2015. 

John is responsible for the philosophy of development for all Quest Swimmers from Novice-Age Group-Senior and beyond. 

Before his time at Quest, Coach John was the Head Coach of his home club Team Richmond Aquatic Club (2002-2004). He got his coaching career started at Atomic City Aquatic Club (2001-2002) as an Assistant Coach.

Coach John graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2001 and was an 8-Time NCAA Div. II All American. He was also a memeber of the Conference Championship Team in 1997. 

John lives in Midlothian, VA with his wife Tiffany, two kids Parker and Chase, and Dog (Quest). 






Amy Howard Head Age Group Coach

Amy competed for the College of William and Mary as a backstroke specialist (1982-1986) and was selected as a co-captain her senior year.  She graduated with a BA in Psychology and was designated a Distinguished Military Graduate from ROTC.  She was commissioned in the US Army as a Military Police officer with a sub-specialty in Public Affairs. 

Amy served overseas in Germany and multiple locations across the US (1986 – 2001) rising to the rank of Major.  She served as a platoon leader and a company commander as well as in numerous staff positions to include Provost Marshal and public affairs intern in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  While on active duty, she graduated from Troy State University in 1995 with a MS in Criminal Justice.  She earned the Parachutist Badge and the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency (Gold) among other awards.  In 2001, Amy transitioned to a new role as an Army wife and stay-at-home mom.  She loved serving Soldiers and their families in this way until her husband retired from the Army in 2010.

Amy started at Quest teaching lessons in 2011 and became a full-time coach at Quest in 2013.  Amy has coached all levels of the program from Quest 1 through Senior and is passionate about the “Quest Way”.  She is currently the Head Age Group coach and loves helping young swimmers believe in themselves. 

Prior to Quest, Amy coached at the Chester YMCA as both an assistant and the head coach.  She served as an assistant coach (2009 – 2010) and then head coach (2011 – 2019) for the River’s Bend Swim Team (RBST) in the Southside Swim League (summer).  Under her leadership, RBST won the league championship 6 years in a row (2013 – 2018).  In 2015, Amy had the privilege of serving as an assistant coach for the Virginia Zones team which took first place.  She is ASCA Level 3 certified and continues to pursue continuing education in the field of coaching.  She continues to swim as a Masters swimmer and credits her parents with instilling a lifelong passion for swimming. 

Amy is married to John and they have a son, William.

Christine Callis Head Novice Coach
Coach Chrissie started her competitive swim career in Richmond, VA with VACS which later
combined with other area teams to form Poseidon Swimming. During her high school years,
Coach Chrissie was coached by Quest Swimming founder, Dudley Duncan and was a Junior
Nationals qualifier. After high school, she went on to compete at the University of New
Hampshire (1996-2000) where she specialized in IM and was a captain her senior year Chrissie
graduated UNH with a double major in Political Science & Sociology.
After college, Chrissie went to work professionally in marketing at a mediation and arbitration
firm before joining the Virginia Lottery where she managed the sports marketing contracts with
all the Virginia public colleges and universities.
After spending some time at home with her kids, she worked at the Midlothian Athletic Club (MAC)
where she was the Activities and Aquatics Director. She served as the Head Coach to the MAC
Manta Rays, started year-round MAC, Swim Clinics and was a group and private swim lesson
instructor. In addition to these coaching opportunities, Chrissie has also served as Head Coach
at Smoketree Pool (2017-2018) and was the first ever head swim coach at Manchester High School (2016-2018).
Coach Chrissie joined the coaching staff at Quest in 2018, where she served under the direction
of Coach Amy in the Age Group level. After coaching Age Group, she took over as Head Coach
for the Novice level. In this role, Chrissie has found a calling teaching the Art of Swimming to
our younger swimmers. She enjoys working with the Novice swimmers and building a
foundation for success as they develop and move on to the Age Group level.
Chrissie resides in Midlothian with her husband, Jay and has two children Connor & Emerson.
Carrie Jones Assistant Coach
Carrie has been involved in the swimming community since the age of 6 and is passionate about passing in a life long love for the sport. She began swimming on her local swim team in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. After high school, she was a 4 year member of the women’s swim team at Kutztown University where she was a captain  her senior year. During college, she was involved in coaching summer league teams in Maryland and Pennsylvania as well at teaching swim lessons at Kutztown University. 
After college, Carrie began teaching which led her to Jacksonville, FL and to Fredericksburg before settling down here in the Richmond area. She’s a third grade teacher at Swift Creek Elementary. No matter where Carrie has settled, she’s been on a master’s swim team to stay involved in the sport. 
Carrie has also coached a few summer league teams in the area and has been an assistant coach with the novice groups here at Quest for the past 4 years. She believes in the “Quest Way” because it emphasizes basic fundamentals and executing them while learning the game of racing. 
When not teaching third grade or on the pool deck, she can be found hanging with her husband and dogs or exploring new places! 
Christopher Bushelman Assistant Coach

Coach Chris is entering his 17th year of coaching and is American Swimming Coaches Association Level 5 Certified in both achievement and education.  Coach Chris is best known as the developmental coach of 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record holder Zach Apple. Chris coached Zach throughout his high school career where Zach became a YMCA National Champion, Junior National Qualifier and US National Qualifier.  Additionally, Chris has coached a member of the US National Junior Team (2015) and a US Junior National Champion.  Chris has also developed and worked with many other Olympic Trials, National, and Junior National qualifiers. 

Prior to coming to Quest, Chris was the Associate Head Coach at SwimRVA where he helped to expand the team from 288 members in 2019 to over 500 in 2021.  

Before moving to Richmond, Chris was the Assistant Director of Competitive Swimming for the YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA).  Chris oversaw the operations and Development of the “West” side of the program (Durham/Chapel Hill).  In his time with YOTA, Chris grew the Senior Program in Chapel Hill from 11 athletes to over 70. The YOTA athletes Chris worked with achieved not only at the YMCA National Level, but also had several members achieve US Junior National Time Standards.  Also, while at YOTA Chris assisted then Head Coach of YOTA Chad Onken with the preparation of YOTA swimmers for 2016 US Olympic Trials and 2017 US International Team Trials.  

From 2012 to 2015, Chris was the Head Coach of the Great Miami Valley YMCA Wahoos.  GMVY was a four site program when Coach Chris took over.  Coach Chris grew that program from 60 athletes to over 120 in just 3 years. In 2015, under Coach Chris’ guidance, GMVY was a Silver Medal Club according to USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program. Chris coached athletes at GMVY who achieved US Olympic Trial, US National/Open, and Junior National times.  It was at GMVY where Chris coached both Olympian Zach Apple and 2015 Junior National Champion and National Junior Team Member,  Mark Andrew.  Zach and Mark, along with their teammates went on to be successful in college, swimming at schools like Auburn, Indiana U, St. Louis University, and Princeton to name a few.

Chris is originally from Southwest Ohio where he was the Head Age Group Coach at KEY Swimming in Kettering, Ohio from 2010-2012 and started as an Assistant Coach at the Coffman Family YMCA in Springboro, Ohio before that.

Chris lives in Midlothian with his wife Amanda, three children (Bella, Lilly, and Matt), and their dogs (Hops & Ash).

Daniel Ellis Assistant Coach