Swim coach Kevin Ryan brings big success and dreams to Winchester’s future

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2023

Kevin Ryan and the team running College Park Gym have turned the Swimchester Sailfish into one of the best swimming teams in the state. Ryan also has big dreams for the city’s recreational future.

Ryan, the Aquatics Director for Winchester Parks and Recreation, recently coached the Swimchester Sailfish to a sixth-place statewide finish. In 2021, the team finished ninth statewide. Last year the Sailfish finished eighth.

On June 23, the Sailfish will host Kentucky’s Open Water State Championship at Taylorsville Lake State Park. Ryan hopes someday to have the competition in Winchester if he succeeds in his dream of getting a swimming lake opened here.

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Over the last three years, the team has nearly doubled in size to 90 young people from ages 6 to 18, including team members from Winchester, Paris, Mount Sterling, Clay City and Lexington.

“That’s pretty good, considering there are some teams with 400 kids,” he said. “If you go by points per athlete, we are first or second in the state. We try to make our kids the very best.”

One of the team’s top athletes is ten-year-old Wyatt Allen, who recently won seven of his eight events at the spring state championship meet at Blairwood Country Club in Louisville.

One goal this summer is to launch a free swim program for local youth who participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free lunch program. The vision is to allow economically challenged kids to participate in competitive swimming.

Ryan said the College Park Natatorium would also like to increase morning usage by launching classes for adults who do not know how to swim and another class for adults wanting to develop their current swimming skills.

Paschal Baute, a College Park Gym member who swims in the Natatorium three days a week at age 93, said Ryan is the best coach of swimming he’s ever met.

“Having been a sports manager and swim coach in the Army and having competed on all four levels of swimming, I have observed Kevin Ryan coaching his swim team,” Baute said. “I can say without reserve that Kevin Ryan is the best motivator I have ever seen. Clark County is really lucky to have someone of this caliber to work with our young people. He is creating experiences for them which will last a lifetime.”

Looking down the road, Ryan dreams of opening a large outdoor adventure lake on 43 acres off VanMeter Road at a location once used by WMU. The facility would have a beach, a play area with inflatables, a fishing area, and a paddle and swimming loop. The waterway also has an existing walking/running track.

“The water there is quite clean, except for the old spillway,” he said. “We would need to aerate it, but it’s teeming with fish. You could sail there, it would be great for outdoor concerts, sailing events, kayak races. It’s just three feet deep for 40 yards out, great for inflatables.”

He is also working on a private park in Clark County that would have a series of mountain bike trails and a kayak boat park on the Clark side of the Kentucky River.

“I see so much potential in this community,” he said. “We just have to have the public will to do it.”