Gillin had higher hopes for the Wolverines when the season began, but illness and injury plagued his swimmers throughout the season.
Still, the team pressed on. Gillin made adjustments as necessary and positioned his team to make the best run possible.
For his efforts in leading the Wolverines to a county title and a 26th-place finish at the Class AAAAAA state meet, Gillin is the 2012-13 Cherokee Tribune Boys Swimming Coach of the Year.
Gillin relied on the strength of some of his older, more experienced swimmers, such as seniors Dalton Baxter, Chase Johnson and Alex Norman, while sophomores Judson Robertson and Alarii Levreault-Lopez also returned to play key roles.
“Our top swimmers are really the ones that deserve this honor,” he said. “I don’t feel like I was really any better a coach this year than last year or the year before. It’s really the kids, who earned it. I’ll accept it on behalf of them and our entire Woodstock program.”
Gillin said the biggest challenge of the season was keeping the boys healthy and motivated. It was easy for some of them to get discouraged when they were swimming outside of their events to replace injured teammates, or when they had to watch from the side of the pool.
“I knew, if I could keep them healthy and motivated, they would be successful,” Gillin said. “Most of the boys were not new, so we knew what we had coming in. Not to downplay things, but with the boys that we have right now, if we didn’t win county, I would have been disappointed.”
The Wolverines did win the county meet, albeit by a slim 19-point margin. Even then, they competed against injuries, with two of their top swimmers sitting out key events.
“We had all the pieces in places, and anything but winning county would be a step backwards,” Gillin said. “I’m pretty happy. Sometimes, it’s harder when you know that you are the one that everyone is shooting for going into it.”
Gillin’s boys will once again have targets on their backs next season. While they will graduate a talented group of seniors, several underclassmen, including Robertson and Levreault-Lopez, qualified for state this year and will be back in the pool for the Wolverines
“Right now, we know that, if we swim up to our potential and everyone fills their roles, next year will be good for us, too,” Gillin said. “We just have to keep striving.”