When Holger Dietze took over the Starlit Aquatic Club swim program eight years ago the team was in shambles, the morale low and his experience as a swim coach limited to two summers of community pool competition. The consensus in the Potomac Valley AAU was that competitive swimming at the Fairfax, Va., club faced imminent demise.

But Dietze, 29, began training his swimmers in the grueling events -- the 1,500 meters, the 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly -- and within a few years Starlit not only was back on top in the Washington area but a top-20 team nationally.

The remarkable turnaround in Starlit's swimming fortunes has let to Dietze's appointment as the women's swim coach at Stanford, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women champion. The Stanford position was one of the most sought-after openings in college swimming. Every Cardinal swimmer who scored at the AIAW championships will be returning as a junior or sophomore to give Dietze a firm base for a potential dynasty.

Dietze said, "Stanford offers a place which has long tried to promote excellence in academics and athletics at the same time."

Dietze, here with his team at the National Swimming Championships, was in the strange position Friday of accepting congratulations while trying to ease the pain his swimmers were feeling from the sudden announcement that their coach was leaving Aug. 31.

Dietze said, "The years at Starlit have been wonderful. The things I like to think we accomplished were to bring Starlit into the top 10 nationally, have our swimmers represent the U.S. in international competition, develop an outstanding age-group program and help people in their choices of colleges."

dietze said going to Stanford "is like going to the Dallas Cowboys. You just can't turn down such a fantastic opportunity."