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November 23, 2017

11/13/2017 7:30:00 AM
Coaching staff to return for boys' swim season

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

The same piecemeal coaching staff that finished the Rhinelander High School girls' swim season will coach the Hodag boys' this winter, with two additions, activities director Brian Paulson has confirmed.

Paulson said co-interim girls' swim head coaches Marna Winnicki and Jenny Heck will be part of the boys' coaching staff along with assistant Brent Olson. Former Rhinelander High School swim coach Dan Jesse will also be part of the staff.

On Monday morning, Paulson added that former RHS girls' swim coach Jon Koch would also help out on a volunteer basis.

Heck and Winnicki will serve as co-head coaches, Olson and Jesse will be their assistants. A meeting was held Sunday night - less than 24 hours before the team held its first practice of the season - to determine the roles for each of the coaches.

"It is a big relief to know who's going to be there - not only a big relief for me, but it will be for the kids, too," Paulson said.

Asked about the subject at Friday's WIAA Division 2 girls' state meet, both Winnicki and Heck declined to comment about the coaching arrangement until after Sunday night's meeting.

The school did not extend a contract offer to former swim coach Lindsay Byrka for the boys' season. Byrka and the district parted ways during the middle of the girls' season when they could not come to terms on a contract. Coaching contracts within the district are all one-year deals and apply to singular sport seasons.

Winnicki, Heck and Olson took over the girls' team shortly after Byrka resigned Sept. 20. They led the RHS girls' squad to a runner-up finish in the Great Northern Conference and two berths at the WIAA state meet.

"We're so extremely lucky to have some community members step up - either former (high school) coaches or swim club coaches," Paulson said. "That's what we had to do to finish up the girls' season and now for the boys' season they're stepping up."

The arrangement allows all four some flexibility to miss some practices or meets should other needs arise, but Paulson said the school will ensure that there are at least two coaches on deck for each practice and meet.

"I really believe with how we finished up the girls' season, the coaches were there quite a bit," he said. "This does give them some flexibility because some of them have families with things going on."

The Hodag swimmers have sent representatives to state each of the last three years, despite struggling with low numbers - which Paulson said is projected to be an issue again this year.

"We have anywhere from 9 to 12 swimmers who could be swimming," he said "I know some of the boys have been doing some recruiting. I think last year we ended around nine students. We're right around that, but looking for more."

The Hodags' first meet is Nov. 28 at Tomahawk.

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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