Todd Dyer back "On Deck" for Shepaug swim program...Story by John Torsiello.
It was difficult for Todd Dyer to be around the pool at Shepaug High School last year.
Dyer, who has amassed almost 350 wins while coaching at Holy Cross and Shepaug, stepped away from his duties with the Spartans at the start of last season to pursue furthering his education.
In addition, he had to deal with serious family health issues as his wife underwent cancer surgery.
So, the break was much needed and the timing of backing away from the duties of coaching at the Washington school was good.
Yet, the former Northwestern Regional 7 and University of Connecticut star greatly missed barking instructions to his swimmers from the side of the pool.
But he’s back this year and ready to roll.
“I really enjoy coaching and it was tough not coaching last year.It was especially difficult because in many ways I knew it would have been a different season if I had been coaching.With everything we were dealing with last year it worked out for the best in the end.”
Dyer, even though he was still working at Shepaug, had very little involvement with the team last year.
“I worked hard at allowing the new coaches to have their space. Also with my wife's cancer and subsequent surgery, I needed to be home with my family.”
While the Spartans enjoyed a solid season by most teams’ standards, it wasn’t the kind of campaign the Shepaug faithful have gotten used to over the years, first under retired mentor Dick Ayer and then for six seasons under Dyer.
With Dyer as head coach at Shepaug, the Spartans won six BL titles (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
Dyer turned the team over last season to Jessica Wilson, who did a capable job and led the Spartans to an 8-2 dual meet record and third place finish in the Berkshire League.
Shepaug had won 10 Berkshire League titles in a row coming into the season, although the squad lost quite a bit to graduation prior to the new year.
Dyer is overjoyed to be back at poolside exhorting his charges on the victory and working to make them better every day in practice.
“I am thrilled to be back working with athletes assisting them in their development. It is especially great to be working with the Shepaug team again, they are a great group with a lot of motivation and commitment.”
Dyer, who will begin his ninth season at Shepaug and 19th overall as a coach, said that being “off deck” allowed him to gain a new perspective and evaluate his philosophy and goals.
“I was interested to see how much I missed coaching after 18 years in a row. What I learned is that I really missed coaching (so much so that I started a Masters program at Shepaug last spring) and now that I am back on deck I am bringing a new passion and focus to my coaching.”
The goal of Dyer and the Spartans this season is very simple, to compete, and win, another Berkshire League title and start a new streak.
“Our focus is to reclaim the BL title and finish top five in the Class S. To achieve these goals the athletes on our team will work to realize their full potential, each athlete will make significant progress throughout the season, and we will come together as a team, building a sense of family that has been the hallmark of our team's success the previous eight years.”
Dyer believes his squad has what it takes to reclaim the BL crown.
“With over 40 athletes on the roster and a desire to challenge again for the BL title, Shepaug should be one of the teams to watch this coming year. A host of returning talent, augmented by incoming freshman, and first time walk-ons promises the potential for an outstanding season. Be on the lookout for significant development over the course of the year.”
Of the Berkshire League, he added, “The league looks strong again this year with Litchfield (the defending champion) and Northwestern both having solids programs. We’ll try and challenge both of them for the title.”
Top competitors for the Spartans will be seniors Jessica Dumas (backstroke and IM), BL diving champion Mariah Hofmann, Collin Reilly, a sprint free champ from a year ago, and Dennis Buell (breaststroke).
Leading juniors include BL backstroke champ Freddie Pitcher, diver Mairaed Rosa, sprint free and butterfly specialist Kelsey Hall, backstroker Ken Buell, Clara Wolfe, a BL champ in the distance free event, distance freestyler Dakota Wilson, a distance freestyler and breaststroker, Nathan Ong, who will compete in the breaststroke, David Geyer and Jemma Roche in the sprint freestyle events and butterfly, Margot Wilhlem in the sprint frees and breaststroke, and Clayton Firmender in the sprint frees and butterfly.
Key newcomers include freshmen Collin Decker (freestyle and butterfly), Hayley Pesce (freestyle and butterfly), Ed Wolfe (freestyle and breaststroke), and Kendall Ross (freestyle and butterfly).
Dyer will be assisted by Lauren Hunt and Steve Toth, the latter handling the divers.
It will certainly be interesting to see if the return of the veteran mentor Todd Dyer will lead to the beginning of another long string of success for the Shepaug swim team.