09 December 2010

Tiger swim coaches reap Section 1AA honors

The FHS girls swimming and diving team finished a school-best second at this fall's Section 1AA meet and were rewarded by qualifying five entrants for the state championships.
Those state qualifiers weren't the only Farmingtonians to receive section recognition, however. Head coach Jen Marshall and assistant Joe Velaski won the Section 1AA Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year awards for their efforts in guiding the Tigers to the best season in the 12-year history of the program.
Marshall and Velaski, a 1994 FHS grad and former state meet qualifier for the Tiger boys team, have been coaching partners for three seasons and not surprisingly, it was a swimming connection that brought them together.
"We were both attending Mandy Rappe and Jordan Pack's (both former Tiger swimmers) wedding and Jen told me there was an opening for an assistant coach," Velaski said. "She wanted to know if I would be interested."
Velaski, a part-time student at the University of Minnesota majoring in mathematics, jumped at the chance and has been working with the program ever since.
"This program has the same foundation that it had in the beginning when I was swimming," Velaski said. "For me coaching is an opportunity to take what I have learned and pass it on to others."
The Section 1AA honor was the first for the third-year assistant and though he called the award "nice", he downplayed its significance, noting he was far more concerned one of his swimmers, freshmen standout Kaitlyn O'Reilly, did not receive the section Swimmer of the Year award.
Marshall who has collected section coaching honors like seashells since taking over the program in 2003, took her sixth recognition in stride.
"It's an honor because it comes from a vote of the coaches," she said. "We're in a section with all Big Nine schools but I think the coaches handle it in a professional manner.
"It's really all about the girls. The teams who come into the section on fire and dropping their times like crazy at that time of the season do all of the work. Their coaches get carried along for the ride."
Marshall said that she and Velaski work well together because they share a passion for the strategy involved in coaching their sport.
"I like to watch other teams as well as our girls," she said. "When we won the section True Team this year I think we did it by putting the best individuals in the best events at the right time."
"That's right," echoed her assistant. "Sometimes we'll take a girl who has never been in a certain event and put her in it just to see how she does. Sometimes that gets surprising results."
The coaching partners also complement each other with Marshall handling the basics and general operation of the program and Velaski tuning into finer points like starts, timing and use of technology, especially the underwater camera.
Call them the Dynamic Duo or perhaps an aquatic Dr. Frankenstein and assistant. Or maybe just keep it simple and call them 2010 Section 1AA Swimming and Diving Coaches of the Year.