Swim coach eager for 20th season | PostIndependent.com

Swim coach eager for 20th season

Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson

For the majority of the Sopris Barracudas swim team’s existence, which has been around for 37 years, Howard Jay has been there.

Jay is entering his 20th season as the Barracudas’ head coach, but after this summer, he’s calling it quits.

“It’s just time.,” Jay said. “It’s been 20 years and I feel like the program could use a shot in the arm from another coach. Not that I don’t love it, but it’s time.”

During his tenure, Jay has coached hundreds of swimmers, many of whom he turned into lifetime participants of the sport.

“I have people who come back and tell me that they are still swimming and swimming fast,” Jay said. “It’s fun because it’s not too hard to get fast at swimming and once you introduce it to someone, it’s fun to see where they go with it.”

Jay will begin his final season coaching today with the Barracudas today and Saturday at the Hurricane Invitational in Rangely. Sopris has already started practices, but Jay will begin conducting morning practices next week for his 70 Barracudas.

“The best thing is that we have 30 brand new 10-and-unders and it’s going to be fun to see them get involved in the sport,” Jay said.

Emily McDonald, the Glenwood Springs High swimmer who won the 50 and 100-yard Class 4A titles in February, has been swimming with the Barracudas since she was 7 years old and has enjoyed diving in the pool for Jay.

“I love him. I would not be at the place I am at if it wasn’t for him,” McDonald said. “He is really knowledgeable because he is so advanced himself. He has a really great way of motivating us and making us feel like we aren’t doing it for him but we are doing it for ourselves.”

McDonald will wrap up her high school swimming career in the 2006-07 season and, like Jay, will be with the Barracudas for the last season this summer.

“I’m not sure I would do it without him,” McDonald said.

Mandy Betts, whose two daughters Jessica and Jennifer have both grown up as Barracudas, couldn’t imagine her daughters swimming for a better coach.

“It’s been wonderful,” Betts said. “He has really taught them dedication and perseverance and how to work hard ever since they were young. He has built their confidence and he really loves those kids. It has been a wonderful experience.”

The season will continue through the end of July, with meets almost every weekend. With swimmers like his son John, Bryce McDermott, Patrick Gucwa, McDonald, the Betts sisters, Alina Roberts, Sierra Grove and others returning to the squad, Jay’s final year should be a good one.

“I think Alina Roberts will make sectionals. Emily is really close to qualifying for nationals and it will be fun to see her reach that level,” Jay said.

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