by Dent Thorpe
Record Proves Bill Rollinger Is A Winner
That was the way Jamestown High School Principal James F. McElrath described Red Raider swim coach Bill Rollinger at the JHS swim team awards banquet Monday night at the Holiday Inn.
Rollinger, indeed, has made an impact in the sport of swimming at JHS, in Chautauqua County and in Western New York after taking over the program in 1968.
His record speaks for itself. At the present time, the Red Raider boys are on a 47-meet winning streak over the last four years. Rollinger's overall coaching record is 264-35.
This past season, Jamestown provided Rollinger with an assistant coach, Mike Swenson, for the first time. Swenson is a former JHS swimmer who had his name erased from the record board when the JHS 400 freestyle relay broke the team record in the Section 6 meet with a fantastic time of 3:17.75 bettering the former mark of 3:20.00.
"Coach Rollinger is a great character builder," Swenson said. "His coaching methods have changed a little bit in recent years."
"He's still a good friend. He is in contact with his ex-swimmers. It's something to look back on. Four of five years down the road, they'll find out what a friend and good coach he is. We never knew how good we had it until we went to college."
Bruce Johnson, the Chautauqua County swimming chairman and a former Jamestown swimmer, who now coaches the sport at Frewsburg Central School said, "We lost two meets in three years (1971-73), both at Cathedral Prep."
"Rollinger has been a tremendous influence in my coaching career. He showed me how to handle the kids. He has a positive attitude and he's a big-time coach at Jamestown."
"He's a tremendous motivator. He's done a lot for swimming in this area. He makes me feel at home. I enjoy swimming against him and he is very helpful."
One of the highlights each season is when the alumni return to the JHS pool, usually during the Christmas holidays.
"I enjoy seeing the ex-swimmers come back," Rollinger said. Five former swimmers are doctors, another a minister, another a pharmacist and several are successful in the business world. It makes me feel good to see the ex-swimmers doing well. I hope I had some influence on them."
During the early years of the Rollinger coaching assignment at JHS, the Red Raiders competed in the Lake Shore League against the schools in the Erie area.
"We won the championship three straight years, 1971-72-73, then they threw us out," said Rollinger who attended Erie Cathedral Prep.
The next three years, Jamestown won the Section 6 swimming championship. The Red Raiders were ranked in the top 10 in New York State all three years and were listed No. 1 in Western New York each season.
When asked to name his biggest win ever, Rollinger had to think a while because he has had several.
"I believe I would say my first Section 6 championship in 1974," he said. "We established credibility in Western New York. People started to take notice that Jamestown had a swim team."
The last 11 years, Jamestown has won its division championship in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference.
"Every year the coaches from Buffalo say, 'Wait until next year. It will be our turn to defeat Jamestown,'" Rollinger said. "We amaze them every year because we don't have a summer swim program. The JHS swim program is from November to March and the coaches always want to meet Jamestown early in the season before the team is in shape."
The swimming program at Jamestown is a tough one. The workouts are from 6:30-8:00 a.m. and from 3:30-6:00 p.m. That gives the swimmers over 10,000 yards a day Monday-Friday. The team also works out on Saturday morning. The weekly average for swimming workouts is 58,000 yards. The team also has a weight program.
For several years, Rollinger had double duty, coaching the girls in the fall before staring with the boys. With the girls' team, Rollinger also had an impressive record of 66-10 before having another person take over the program. Nancy Feenstra Swenson, wife of assistant coach Mike Swenson, coached the girls last fall.
Dick Keeney, the swim coach at Sweet Home for the past 29 years, said, "We've always had a good swimming rivalry with Jamestown, Bill and I have been good friends over the years. We have traveled together to conventions and have been to the New York state meets together. He always has his team up for Sweet Home. He is full of surprises."
"He always gets his team up for the end of the season. He didn't have his team ready for the ECIC meet because it's very hard to peak a team for three weeks: the ECIC championships, the Section 6 championships and the state meet. A team very likely will go flat in the state meet."
Keeney added, " Rollinger did an outstanding job getting Tom Glenn ready for the sectionals, both in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke."
East Aurora coach Tom Fahrenholz said, "Bill Rollinger is a great coach. It's always fun to swim against Jamestown. Members of his team are always gentlemen. He's a very knowledgeable coach. His teams are no surprises. They will be mighty tough again next year, even though he will lose a lot of good swimmers this year."
Rollinger has been coaching 32 years and he has just recently celebrated his 46th birthday on the same day the ECIC championship meet was held.
Rollinger started coaching when he was 14 with his father, William F. Rollinger, Sr., at the Khakwa Club in Erie. His father held a national high school record in the 40-yard freestyle with a time of 18 seconds flat at Erie Academy High School, where he eventually coached. He also swam at Northwestern.
His mother, Edna Mae North Rollinger, was an outstanding diver and qualified for the Olympics.
Bill, Jr. was a high school All-American at Erie Cathedral Prep in the 50-yard freestyle. He was third in the U.S. in that event at the National Catholic High School Championships at Villanova. He later was an All-American as a member of the freestyle relay at Slippery Rock in the NAIA championships.
Swimming isn't the only sport that Rollinger has coached. He started out as the football coach at Lincoln Junior High in 1968 and was assistant wrestling and assistant track coach the same year at JHS. In recent years, he has been the boy's varsity tennis coach.
Rollinger also had the first varsity water polo team in New York State. The Red Raiders played teams from the Erie area.
"Water polo is good conditioning for swimming," the veteran coach noted.
Rollinger also started the Jamestown Chapter of Swimming Officials and is a former state president of the organization. He is a former AAU representative in water polo and started the Hammerhead Swim Club in Fredonia.