Legendary Leonhart stepping down from coaching swimming
For more than two decades, Dale Leonhart was synonymous with high school and club swimming in Grand Junction.
The longtime Grand Junction Dolphins, District 51 boys and Grand Junction High School girls swim coach has resigned from his high school coaching duties.
When the Dolphins merged with Maverick Aquatics earlier this summer, Leonhart was replaced as the club’s head coach by Jacob Swinn, the new director of aquatics at Colorado Mesa University. Leonhart was planning to help with the club, but said he will not be coaching with Maverick Aquatics.
“I thought the merger and partnership with the Dolphins and Colorado Mesa University went down poorly,” Leonhart said. “It started one way and ended up differently. I decided there was no reason hanging out with people that don’t see your worth.
“It’s not the way I envisioned it.”
With the club program feeding into the high school programs, Leonhart said he felt it was best to step aside before the girls swimming season starts in two months. The district is searching for his replacement with the high school programs.
The Dolphins program merged with Maverick Aquatics in July, bringing an end to the club team that’s been in existence for more than 50 years.
Leonhart, 68, coached the Grand Junction boys and girls swimming programs and the Dolphins since 1990. He continued coaching the District 51 boys co-op program when the schools’ boys swimming programs merged several years ago.
“There were countless memories of good vibes,” Leonhart said. “I was blessed with great kids and good support.
“My job was pretty easy. All I had to do was figure out which way to go. The tradition was established when I walked in. All I had to do was make sure it was remembered and reinforced.”
Leonhart has made an impact on hundreds of youth swimmers through the years, including Grand Junction graduate Angel Forsling.
“Not only in swimming, but in all aspects of life,” she said. “He taught me to put a lot of effort into everything, from school to work to swimming. He made you realize whatever you work for you got it, and if you didn’t, he was just as disappointed.”
Forsling, 23, started competitive swimming at age 9 and trained with Leonhart for 11 years, including during breaks from college.
She qualified for state all four years in high school, placing fifth as a sophomore and senior in the 100-yard breaststroke and reached the NCAA Division II national championships for Colorado School of Mines.
Forsling is now a production engineer for a petroleum company in Bakersfield, Calif.
In Leonhart’s 21-year tenure, he led the Grand Junction boys and girls teams to several consecutive Western Slope League titles and won more than 100 dual meets. He coached three individual state champions: Beth Zeman in the 100-yard freestyle, Piper Chamberlain in the 100 butterfly and Gretta Simpson in the 100 butterfly.
“I would’ve preferred to go further down the road, but that’s the way it goes,” Leonhart said. “I look forward to continue coaching.”