by Dent Thorpe
November 22, 1989
JHS Swimming Will Have A Void To Fill After This Season
The veteran Red Raider coach, who has been at the helm since 1968, has recorded an impressive 288-37 record in 21 years. This season will be his 35th year of coaching swimming and it all started with his father at the Khakwa Club in Erie at the age of 14.
His father, William F. Rollinger, Sr., held the national high school record in the 40-yard freestyle (18.0) 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.
With that kind of swimming background, it is not surprising Bill Jr. was a high school All-American at Erie Cathedral Prep in the 50-yard freestyle. He was third in the United States in that event at the National Catholic High School Championships at Villanova and later was an All-American freestyler for Slippery Rock in the NAIA championships.
"He is a motivator, he is a winner." is the way that JHS Principal James F. McElrath describes Rollinger.
This year, another former JHS swimmer, Tim Anderson, will be the assistant coach for Rollinger. Mike Swenson, a former Red Raider "fish" has been his assistant the last three years.
Long hours are spent in the pool at JHS. The workouts are scheduled from 6:30-8:00 a.m. and 3:30-6:00 p.m. Monday-Friday. That gives the swimmers 10,000 yards per day. Saturday morning workouts a re for 8,000 yards, for a total of 58,000 yards per week. The team also has a weight program.
"Coach Rollinger is a great character builder," Swenson said. "His coaching methods have changed a little in recent years. He's still a great friend. He is in contact with his ex-swimmers. It's something to look back on. Four or 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, a former Jamestown swimmer and Frewsburg Central School boys and girls swim coach and athletic director said, "We lost two meets in three years (1971-73), both to Erie Cathedral Prep. Rollinger has been a tremendous influence in my coaching career. He showed me how to handle kids. He has a positive attitude and he's a big-time coach at Jamestown. He's a motivator. He has done a lot for swimming in this area. He makes me feel at home. I enjoy swimming against him. He is very helpful."
One of the highlights each season is when the alumni return to the Red Raider pool. That happens usually during the Christmas holidays.
"I enjoy seeing the ex-swimmers coming 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 ex-swimmers doing well. I hope I had some influence on them."
During the early years of the Rollinger era, the Red Raiders were in the Lake Shore League competing against the schools in the Erie area.
"We won three straight championships, 1971-72-73," Rollinger said, "then they threw us out."
The next three years, Jamestown won the Section 6 championship. The Red Raiders were ranked in the top 10 in New York State 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 Red Raiders have won the Erie County Interscholastic Conference championship 12 of the last 13 years, losing out to Hamburg two years ago.
"Every year the Buffalo area coaches 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 Jamestown swim program is from November until March. The other coaches always hope to meet Jamestown early in the season before the team is in shape."
For several years, Rollinger pulled double duty, coaching the girls in the fall before starting with the boys. With the girls he had an impressive 66-10 record before Nancy Feenstra took over the program.
"I've always enjoyed coaching swimming," Rollinger said. "I still do but I think it's time to pursue other interests."
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.