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Winskowski extends swimming career on coaching side of pool

SUBMITTED PHOTO Luke Winskowski (far right) is a 2000 DLHS?graduate. He is now the girls' swimming and diving head coach at Mounds View. His wife, Ann Marie (left) is an assistant coach on the team. Their niece and nephew are Miley and Koda.

As a Detroit Lakes swimmer during his high school years, Luke Winskowski learned some valuable lessons in which he has brought along with him later in life.

The 2000 DLHS graduate performed well in the pool, competing in two Class 1A state meets in the 200 freestyle relay event, but it was his leadership abilities which eventually became more important after high school.

That ability was more than apparent during his collegiate swimming career at Gustavus Adolphus, where Winskowski earned being the team captain his junior and senior seasons.

Now, after a fruitful swimming career in high school and college, Winskowski is passing on his skills of being a leader to the up-and-coming generation of swimmers.

For the last three years, Winskowski has been the head coach for the Mounds View girls' swimming and diving team, which recently competed in the State True Team meet this last month.

It's an entirely different stage for Winskowski, but one in which he has learned and prospered in.

"I've always been on the swimming side, so it's been a good learning experience," Winskowski said of his newfound coaching career. "I've learned how much work goes into it."

And he's not talking about the endless amount yards swimming in the pool, either.

Winskowski doesn't have a coaching degree or wasn't even going to pursue a swimming coaching job after he graduated from college, but when the opportunity arose, he wanted to continue his swimming experience -- just on the sidelines.

"I just had my informal experience of being a swimmer, but I wanted to be involved in swimming again," he added. "I wanted to give back to the sport, too. It's been a good growth experience."

But Winskowski soon found out there are many hats a head coach wears -- including being a public relations manager with parents, scheduling challenges, making out a lineup for 50-55 swimmers and divers, while just organizing for a season which lasts only three months, but takes over nine to prepare for.

Since Winskowski also has a full-time job being a financial associate for Thrivent, it's been more than a full schedule.

"It definitely takes more time coaching than the three months of the season," Winskowski said. "We start making plans for the season in April or May, so basically you take three or four months off after the season.

"It definitely pushes you to the limits."

Coaching in a

bigger market

Winskowski didn't jump into the coaching waters alone, he had plenty of help.

His wife and fellow Gustavus Adolphus graduate, Ann Marie, is a big aid as an assistant.

She was an All-Conference swimmer in college and holds three school records, so she brings plenty of top experience to the team.

Winskowski's friend from college, Brad Hammer (an All-American swimmer), also is a coach and will be co-head coaching in the future.

Also helping out as an assistant is former Purdue University swimmer Lida Denuccio, making the Mounds View coaching staff an elite one.

"It's been a luxury having four coaches on board," Winskowski said.

Mounds View is in one of the toughest conferences and sections in Class 2A, so it's a challenge in each and every meet.

With 50-55 girls out every year, Winskowski and his staff makes sure all have the chance to swim or dive competitively and keeps the junior varsity and varsity teams together.

"Their times during a meet earn them varsity positions," Winskowski said. "That adds better competition for the team, as well."

The coaching staff also put together four "pillars" to anchor their philosophy -- they emphasize team, having fun, taking on all challenges and success.

All four together, make the sport a progressive one where the athletes are learning.

Winskowski has seen both sides of competition after swimming for DL, a Class 1A level team which competes in outstate meets.

Mounds View has all its meets against larger metro schools.

He said he learns from both sides.

"There are a lot of year-round swimmers here and the talent pool is very deep," Winskowski said. "Minnesota is considered a top 10 state in swimming. Many of the swimmers specialize in a sport, where as in DL, there are a lot of three-sport athletes."

The training Winskowski and his coaches put the Mounds View team through is on a high-intense level. The start of the season is almost like mid-season training, since the majority of swimmers have been practicing all year.

Even with a high amount out, the Mounds View coaching staff employs that everyone competes.

"We don't have tryouts and a big challenge is fighting for pool space," Winskowski added.

The Mustangs finished sixth in the State True Team meet this season, despite entering as one of the four wildcard qualifiers and the ninth-best score from the section meets.

"There are eight teams in our conference and five made it to the State True Team," Winskowski stated. "The State True Team is one of our highest goals and finishing sixth was the best we could do, which is very good considering the competition."

Winskowski's goal is to qualify all three of his relays for the Class 2A meet -- along with several individuals -- with the 200-freestyle relay a possible top eight finisher.

Being able to continue his competitive swimming experience, Winskowski has learned to cultivate all he has learned -- starting from his roots in Detroit Lakes and on through to his coaching days in Mounds View.