BELFAST — To state Bob Winslow has made an impressive splash in Maine high school swimming and diving — and Belfast Area High School water sports, specifically — would diminish the seismic impact the man has had during a tsunami of a coaching career.

And for his nearly half-century of incredible pool accomplishments, Winslow will be inducted into the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 9 in a ceremony noon to 3 p.m. at Bruno’s Restaurant in Portland.

The honor, alas, is long overdue for a man who has accomplished more than most in and around the pool and diving board.

The nearly 72-year-old helped put BAHS swimming on the map. In fact, he essentially is the father of Lion swimming and, especially, diving.

“It’s quite an honor [being] inducted,” Winslow said of being enshrined in the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame, which is located at the Bath Family YMCA. “When I was a kid swimming at Deering, some of the people that are on that list go way back and were outstanding coaches, swimmers and divers. You look at the list and you say, ‘Wow, I’m in there with some pretty well-known people that have done pretty well.’ ”

And Winslow certainly has done well and made a name for himself in the sport. In fact, his impressive resumé is as well-known as most in state swim circles.

Also one of the state’s most prolific and successful canoe paddle racers (there is his other connection to water), Winslow’s high school coaching career is one of the most impressive in state history.

He has coached 48 straight seasons, with his first being 1972-74, with no end in sight.

As of 2020, he sported a 382-158-6 (.707 winning percentage) dual-meet record. In fact, he earned his 350th dual-meet win in 2016.

Asked to describe his initial thoughts when he first found out he would be inducted in the state’s prestigious swim/diving hall of fame, he said. “It’s hard to describe, it really is. It’s quite an honor when you look back at all the people that have been inducted prior to you. It’s very humbling.”

Of course, the last year-plus of being a school athletic coach has been difficult, altered by the pandemic, but that has not stopped Winslow from adding to his amazing resumé.

In his nearly five decades on the deck, Winslow has led the Lion boys to state Class B titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and state runner-up status in 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2012. He also has guided 26 individual state champs, 17 individual state runners-up, 17 state relay championship teams, a New England champion (Tyler Bowen in 2007), five individual state diving champions (in 1984, one Lion diver set a state meet record at 419 points) and seven individual state diving runners-up.

In the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, he has guided the Lions to 17 championships (10 straight 1992-2001, then six in a row 2008-2013), guided 78 individual swim champions, 16 individual diving champs, 11 diving runners-up, three diving meet records and 37 league relay champs (six of which were league records — 200 freestyle: 1992, 1994, 2000; and 400 free: 1992, 1993, 2000).

Impressive, huh? Well there is more. Much more.

He has been the state Class B swim coach of the year four times (1994, 1997, 2000, 2001) and Class B diving coach of the year twice (2006, 2011). He also has been KVAC coach of the year 13 times (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019). And, for the icing on his sweet career pool-based cake, the 2001 state high school swimming/diving meet was dedicated to Winslow.

And enshrinement in the hall of fame is recognition of his longevity and overall greatness.

“[It is] really rewarding in the sense that it recognizes my accomplishments in swimming and diving as well,” Winslow said of his induction. “I’ve had great success at Belfast Area High School. It’s quite an honor being recognized by your peers for what you’ve accomplished.”

Now, the above is a litany of accolades for the highly-respected coach, but there is more. If it involved swimming and diving, Winslow has been involved in it. To say pool sports have been his forte would, well, be a gross understatement.

He has been a certified Level 2 Maine high school and YMCA official, official (starter) for Special Olympics swim meets, Maine Interscholastic Swim League vice-president 1994-1996, Maine Interscholastic Swim League president 1997-1999, Maine Principals’ Association committee 1997-1999, Maine Swimming and Diving Hall-of-Fame committee member 26 years (started in 1994) and members of the American Swim Coaches Association and National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.

Standing on a pool deck over the years, Winslow has, of course, had many tremendous and prideful moments, none more than coaching his sons, Aaron and Kevin, and his grandson, Jackson. He said during the pandemic, when swimmers were limited in the pool, he even worked with a handful of female swimmers, including his granddaughter, Mia, a couple of days a week.

And swimming has stayed in the family blood as Winslow’s son, Aaron, is the longtime head coach of the Waldo County YMCA Bluefish youth swim team.

As a swimmer in his youth in Southern Maine, Winslow certainly never dreamed he would have this dramatic an impact on the sport. He initially dove into the swimming pool for fun and competition. From that first moment, however, he was hooked. And then, for decades, he has maintained an unbelievable passion in and around the pool.

“No, I didn’t think I’d rise to this level,” he said of what he has accomplished in the sport. “I’m very passionate about what I do. I love coaching. I love being on deck. I’m a very competitive person and I like seeing my swimmers improve and accomplish good things. The boys swim team hasn’t had a losing season since, I think, back in the mid-1980s. We’ve had winning seasons from then on up. A lot of state champions, KVAC champions and diving champions. We’ve had great success and I’ve always had great support from my athletic directors that let me run my program and give me the support I need. It’s very enjoyable to go to the pool every day and see my swimmers progress and improve.”

Winslow said his most memorable coaching moment was in 2000, when his team won its first state championship. “That was certainly a memorable moment. I think it was in 1992 when we won our first KVAC championship. We’ve won, including this year, 18 KVAC titles, five state runners-up and three state championships.”

Winslow said the pandemic has been difficult on youth and school sports, and high school swimming has not been spared. In fact, for the 2021 winter season, his team competed in its home school pool in essential isolation, then compared notes, so to speak, with other teams in virtual meets.

“This past year was really tough with COVID-19,” he said. “Competing at home and doing all on the computer, and swimming meets by yourself with officials and then submitting times, while the other team was competing in their pool with officials. You had to do everything right with times and everything. It wasn’t the same as head-to-head competition. That was probably one of the toughest years, with wearing a mask coaching on deck. Kids coming in with masks on and jumping in the water and doing their workout. It was a tough year, but we won the KVAC championship and won all our duel-meets, even though they were virtual. It was certainly a different season.”

Winslow said he keeps coming back to coach because of specific, but simple reasons: “I just enjoy it,” he said, adding, “I like seeing kids improve and watching them improve when they get to their junior and senior years. Get the experience and improve on their strokes. For the boys in their junior and senior years they get physically stronger and faster in the water as a result. I just enjoy being on deck coaching, whether that’s my swimmers or my divers.”

For the person who has accomplished all there is in his sport of choice, what remains?

“I think our program is respected throughout the state for our good swimmers, our high caliber of swimmers,” he said. “We may not win the state meet every year, but we’ve got swimmers that are right near the top in many cases. That’s exciting. Two years ago, I had issued a challenge to a couple of my swimmers and divers to see if they could qualify for meeting the qualifications to participate in the state meet in all of their events, and they did that. In all of 48 years of coaching I’d never had a swimmer or diver that had qualified in every single individual event, and that year I had two boys that did that — freshman Brigham Graf and senior Gary Moline. Both of them were great divers, as well as great swimmers. I was pretty excited about that. There are not many swimmers in the state of Maine that have done that. I know there are few, but I can’t name them, but for Belfast those were the first two, which is pretty challenging.”

So, the key question is, how many more years does Winslow want to coach? “When I stop enjoying it and I feel when I’m not being effective as a coach. Few more years as long as my health [remains good]. I’ll be 72 in the fall and I’m still healthy. I still enjoy coaching. When I was teaching — and I’ve been retired for 10 years — I knew it was time because I was getting tired of, not the kids, but the politics of what the state said you had to do, but I knew it was time after 30 years. I’m not getting tired of [coaching] swimming; I still enjoy that.”

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