BLOOMINGTON — It’s been a season of “lasts” for retiring Bloomington High School swim coach Bob Loy, who is nearing the end of a first-rate 38-year career.
Wednesday marked his final home dual meet, which featured new starting blocks purchased by his former swimmers. His last Intercity Meet will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Normal West and Loy concedes his emotions will be running high.
“I remember swimming in it myself (in 1969) … the excitement, the fun … swimming against guys you see all the time,” said Loy, who saw his first Intercity Meet in 1968 when his older brother, Jerry, swam.
Thanks to senior stars Reid Byers and Gus Jumonville, it’s almost certain Loy will be treated to a final trip to the state meet in Winnetka on Feb. 24-25.
“Reid and Gus, here on the end, make it a lot of fun,” Loy said. “You never know what they’re going to do. That’s what keeps a coach young … keeps them wanting to come back for more.
“I know it’s time (to retire), but the heart is still there.”
Buoyed by an explosive underwater kick off each wall, Byers has the state’s seventh best time this season in the 100-yard backstroke at 52.81 seconds and his 200 individual medley mark of 1:57.89 ranks 10th. He finished 23rd in last year’s state backstroke.
Byers’ backstroke best ranks seventh in Pantagraph area history and leaves him poised to break the school record of 52.17 set by Justin Wolfe in 2008.
A Division I prospect, Byers credits Loy’s “great” coaching for also getting him within reach of the BHS 200 IM record of 1:55.29 set by Michael Wolfe in 2013.
“Other coaches I’ve had are also good coaches in practices,” Byers said, “but he’s the most personal.”
Jumonville, 38th last year in state diving, has pushed the BHS six-dive record to 285.45 points, a total that ranks third in area history. His 11-dive best of 426.85 has left him eager to break George Metcalf’s 2015 school record of 467.80.
After he gets done torpedoing records, Jumonville plans to study nuclear technology and serve on Navy submarines.
Jumonville’s diving coach, John Becker, also is retiring after 22 years. Becker has already moved to Oklahoma, but advises Jumonville via text-messaging and by analyzing videos shared over the Internet.
“He’s a phenomenal guy,” Jumonville said. “He’s a man of few words, but the words he says mean a lot.”
The dangerous inward 2½ is worth a lot of points, which explains why Jumonville added it to his repertoire. The dive is so difficult, fewer than 10 state entrants will try it. One must jump backwards while doing 2½ front flips and yet stay close to the board.
“Your head passes the board three times in that flip, which is kind of scary,” Jumonville said. “You can’t lean back at all to get away from the board. It’s terrifying to do. If you don’t go off right, you’ll hit your head on the board.”
A stellar twister, the 5-foot-4 Jumonville credits repetition for helping him manage fear.
“You kind of grow accustomed to it,” he said.
Loy has grown accustomed to Becker developing stars.
“You can’t have a better coach than John,” said Loy while also applauding Jumonville’s focus and dedication.
Loy’s dedication to swimming is unquestioned. Since age 10, he’s arisen between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. to pursue his passion.
“So there is no way I can sleep in (during retirement),” he said. “Plus, my wife (Shelley) already informed me, she doesn’t care what I do throughout the day, but I’m leaving the house by 8 o’clock.”
Loy’s evenings will be filled coaching the Bloomington-Normal Swim Club. His long history developing age-groupers has allowed him to track the improvement of young stars. Their potential kept him coming back year after year.
“You look at them and think, ‘man they’ve got talent, if only they’ll work,’” he said. “How do I get them to work?”
For 38 years, he's found a way.