Bill Sterner stood underneath the massive record board of the Emory H. Markle Intermediate School pool, a site with South Western High swimming achievements, including a likeness of Sterner himself, on the walls.
The workout done, Sterner reminded his qualifiers for this weekend's District 3 Championships at Cumberland Valley High School to take care of themselves -- eat, stay hydrated and rest.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said.
But there won't be many more of them for Sterner as the only head coach South Western has ever known. Ending a 40-year career, Sterner, who turns 70 on March 13, is retiring, perhaps as soon as this weekend's meet.
Not that he is planning that, of course.
"It's not about me. I want them to be successful," he said about his Mustangs. "If they're successful, I'm happy. Yes, I'd like to see them get to the state meet. I want them to get there, but it's because I want them to get there, not because I want to take them there."
However, if Sterner does, it will be the final stop in a career he envisioned finishing four years ago.
"Every year, the freshmen would say, 'You're going to stay 'til I graduate, won't you?'," Sterner said. "Four years ago, I told this group of guys, 'I will stay until you graduate. Then I'm going to retire.'
"It's something I could look to four years ago and, at that point in time, I probably would have been emotional about it when I decided. But now, I'm content with it."
Sterner began his coaching career as a diving coach at York Suburban for four years under Dick Guyer, who himself retired just a few years ago after four decades at the Trojans' helm.
Sterner then came to South Western. The coach recalled four schools, including Spring Grove, Red Lion and Dallastown, developed programs at the same time and, for the first year, faced each other in home-and-away meets before joining the varsity level.
Crediting Guyer as a mentor, Sterner has spent the next four decades honing his craft of teaching swimming through participation in numerous clinics. To this day, he said, he learns by attending them.
"Becoming more efficient in the water is something that over the past 10 years has been something to emphasize," he said. "Keeping your body streamlined in the water, using the technique to remain streamlined because, if you have less resistance in your stroke, in your turn, you have more energy to apply to that race."
Those are lessons which also apply to the Seahorse Swim Team, a youth organization for which Sterner will remain as director. Likewise, he hopes to remain an officer with the Pennsylvania High School Swimming Coaches Association, for which he is secretary-treasurer.
In fact, though his coaching career might end this weekend, he will work at the PIAA Championships in two weeks at Bucknell University as awards chairman.
"I think it was '91 the guy that had it then decided to give it up," Sterner, who has coached the Mustangs 10 years since his retirement as a teacher, said. "In all of my intelligence, I realized that, if I take this position, I'll be able to get on (the pool) deck every year, no matter what."
Therefore, swimming fans surely have not seen the last of Sterner, inducted several years ago into the South Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
As for who will succeed him at South Western, Sterner said, "All I'll say is we have a plan."
In the meantime, the news of his impending retirement after 510 dual-meet wins has brought messages of goodwill from alumni far and wide.
"You never realize how much you've affected their outlook on life until they actually put it into words and you can actually read it," he said.
For some, words are not enough. He said the Sterner home will host a reunion of swimming alumni, organized primarily by Laura Meckley, on May 25, when they will thank Sterner in person.
Sterner, who has coached through two knee replacements, realizes what that may become after teaching swimmers for four decades.
"I may have a picnic area full of more people than I can handle," Sterner said. "But I'm up to challenges."
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