Across Olympic lanes

Across+Olympic+lanes

 

As Shannon Gillepsy walked across the bulkhead, the entire crowd of parents and swimmers grew quiet. Gillespy turned a deep shade of red as head coach of Lakeside Aquatic Club, Jason Walter, presented her with flowers. The crowd rose from their seats and erupted into cheers as Walter announced that she had been accepted to coach at the 2012 Olympic Games.

 

“I had known about a month before attending a USA Swimming Board Meeting, but when they stopped in the middle of the meet and Jason announced it to everyone, I was just stunned,” Gillespy said. “Having all the swimmers and parents of LAC and all the other teams just stand up and cheer for five straight minutes was indescribable. I still can’t believe it.”

 

Gillespy has been swimming since she was eight years old. She was a four year letterman in the 200 IM and the 500 free in high school. She then went on to swim at Southern Methodist University and Texas State University.

 

She has been coaching for 28 years, 15 of those with LAC. She spent five years coaching Team Orlando Swimming and served on the Florida Swimming Board of Directors before returning to Texas to coach.

 

“I love coaching here (Marcus),” Gillespy said. “This is my home.

 

Gillespy also serves on the USA Swimming Board of Directors and is the president of the Texas Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.

 

For the past four years, she has been on a path to be named a part of the Olympic coaching staff by managing the USA Open Water World Championship Swim Team. Other factors also influenced the decision to put Gillespy on the staff, such as her commitment to the team and performance as a coach.

 

While Gillespy prepares for the Olympics, she also coaches at LAC and is in the middle of her eighteenth season at Marcus. She has coached many state finalists, champions and Olympic trial qualifiers from past years. She has been named District and Regional Coach of the year numerous times and has led the team to win regionals 11 years in a row.

 

Freshman Colter Henderson has known Gillespy for four years and said that though swim practices are hard, they are always worth it in the end.

 

“She’s not as scary as some people make her out to be,” Henderson said. “She may yell at you during practice but she is only pushing you to do your best.”

 

According to sophomore Kara Gunther, Gillespy has had a positive impact on the program and the swimmers.

 

“I look up to her as a swimmer and as a coach,” Gunther said. “I think it’s awesome that she was accepted to coach for the Olympic team. She 100 percent deserves it.”

 

Leading up to the games, Gillespy will go to the Olympic trials as they pick the teams. She’ll leave on July 15 for Canada with the team so they can swim in cold water, then Australia for a week and a half. Finally, they’ll finish in London and compete.

 

“It’s exciting,” Gillespy said. “It’s something I’ve never done before so I’m expecting the unexpected.”