For the first time in his long and distinguished career with the Prince George Barracudas, Jerzy Partyka has been handed a major award by the B.C. Swim Coaches Association.
Partyka, the 56-year-old head coach of the local swim club, is the association's 17-and-under coach of the year for 2012. Several of Partyka's swimmers in that age group -- including Haley Black, Danica Ludlow and Sterling King -- are coming off brilliant 2012 seasons. Individually or collectively, their performances led to Partyka getting the nod for the coaching award.
The current season, which is just underway, is Partyka's 20th with the Barracudas. During his tenure, the club has consistently been among the best in B.C. and Canada.
Jason Smith, now into his 13th year as Partyka's assistant, reacted bluntly to the news of his friend's recognition by the BCSCA.
"It's about time," Smith said. "Considering what he's done over the years -- not just with individual swimmers but with raising the club's profile in this city, the province and the country to what it is today -- it's astounding."
Black, Ludlow and King all competed at the Olympic Trials in Montreal in March. At the meet, Black qualified for B finals in the 100-metre and 200m butterfly races and placed fourth and third respectively in club-record times. Ludlow, meanwhile, set new club standards in all four of her swims and had a top placing of 20th in the 400m freestyle. As for King, he established club records in three events. His best finish came in the 1,500m freestyle, where he placed 21st.
For 2012, Black and Ludlow were also members of the Canadian junior national team.
While Partyka has been at the helm of the club, he has given swimmers the training they need to be competitive at all levels of development. Upon graduation, countless Barracudas athletes have gone on to secure college or university scholarships and have grown into leaders of their respective teams.
"Jerzy is persistent in what he wants and he sets a standard of excellence in the club," Smith said. "He makes that a standard for everybody, makes it a culture."
Partyka said he is "really happy" to have been named a BCSCA coach of the year because it means that his athletes are experiencing success.
"The club is very established for the last 20 years that I've been here," said Partyka, who came to Prince George from St. Thomas, Ont., for the job with the Barracudas. "My point is that the kids who are living in Prince George, they have the same opportunity as the kids who are living in the big city to excel. If they want to be a good swimmer, they have a perfect opportunity to compete with anybody in Canada."
Partyka's home country is Poland. He moved from there to West Germany before he arrived in Canada. He never really expected to be in Prince George for two decades and counting.
"Probably like everybody else who comes to Prince George, I thought we'd come for a couple years and see," said Partyka. "Most of us who come, we like it here. We enjoy where we are. If you look at the coaches in Canada, I am probably the longest coach coaching in one club, ever. That tells you something about the program and the community and everything."