Long­time Y swim­ming coach leaves

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY KENT JACK­SON STAFF WRITER

Rob Gould had just fin­ished four years ser­vice with the United States Marine Corps as a com­bat in­struc­tor of water sur­vival when he took a job as a life­guard at the pool of what is now the Ha­zle­ton YWCA.

“That was one of the things I was qual­i­fied to do,” Gould said, think­ing back to 1993.

Since then, Gould has trained a gen­er­a­tion of young swim­mers on the Y’s team, started a master’s team for adults and or­ga­nized and com­peted in run­ning races, triathlons, bi­cy­cle time tri­als and open-water swim­ming races.

His role at the Y ends this week­end when he and his fam­ily will move to Jack­sonville, Flor­ida, where he has taken a job with Sec­ond Wind Race Tim­ing, a com­pany that stages and times races.

In sum­mers, Gould ex­pects to re­turn to Ha­zle­ton to work for Sec­ond Wind at lo­cal races.

Through­out his life, Gould has shut­tled between Ha­zle­ton and Flor­ida.

Af­ter he was bor n in the Ha­zle­ton area, his par­ents moved to Flor­ida, where he grew up and grad­u­ated from high school in Oviedo.

Be­cause his fa­ther, Robert, and grand­fa­ther, John Gould, who started a su­per mar­ket in Conyn­g­ham, had been Marines, Gould fol­lowed them into the ser­vice.

“I think I knew I was go­ing into the Marine Corps even as a fresh­man” in high school, he said.

Af­ter his dis­charge fol­low­ing ser­vice in Saudi Ara­bia and Kuwait dur­ing the Gulf War, he started work­ing at the Y in Ha­zle­ton be­cause his par­ents had re­turned to the area, although they now live in Flor­ida again.

Gould said he stayed at the Y for 24 years, even af­ter fin- ish­ing col­lege stud­ies in crim­i­nal jus­tice, be­cause he liked be­ing around peo­ple with pos­i­tive out­looks.

“I just got hooked, work­ing with the kids,” he said. And adults.

Mar lin Dun­can, who swam in col­lege, had been out of the pool for years when a doc­tor rec­om­mended that he start ex­er­cis­ing to strengthen his hip fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent. Gould no­ticed him swim­ming at the Y, in­vited him to join the master’s team and then pro­vided en­cour­age­ment that helped Dun­can fol­low his work­out rou­tine.

“I’m kind of on and of f again,” he said. “Do­ing a lot of swim­ming with Rob over the years, I found him to be a fan­tas­tic in­spi­ra­tion for us in the masters and, of course, the chil­dren as well.”

Swim­mers per­formed un­der Gould’s coach­ing.

Most years, the team sent swim­mers to state or na­tional cham­pi­onships.

“The re­sults were there … Rob just has a way of gen­tly push­ing peo­ple in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion and some­how mak­ing it fun for ev­ery­one,” David Kisen­wether, a bi­cy­cle racer from Su­gar­loaf Twp. and train­ing part­ner with Gould, said.

Although Gould had no ex­pe­ri­ence in com­pet­i­tive swim­ming when he got out of the Marines, he started rac­ing him­self so he could coach his swim­mers bet­ter.

“He’s so in­volved. He will do ab­so­lutely any­thing for his swim­mers: take time out to do some­thing lit­tle, per­fect­ing a stroke, turn­ing, any­thing ,” one of his for­mer swim team mem­bers, Shaina Grego, said.

Grego and her sis­ter Feli­cia learned to swim from Gould, and af­ter that she raced for 10 years at the Y and Ha­zle­ton Area High School.

She said Gould’s lessons had value out­side the pool, too.

“He got us into the whole com­mu­nity ser­vice” of vol­un­teer­ing at triathlons and other races .“He would al­ways re­cruit all his swim­mers. Some­times (we) didn’t want to do it, but we did it for Rob,” Grego said.

She and other swim team mem­bers fol­lowed a rou­tine when vol­un­teer­ing to help with one of the races, which raised money for the Y or char­i­ta­ble causes.

They filled bags with snacks and hand­outs for the rac­ers dur­ing the week, loaded the truck the night be­fore and ar­rived at the course early on race day to help with re­fresh­ments and other du­ties.

“Those are the fun times,” Gre go said. “You’ re with ev­ery­one, with all your friends.”

At a triathlon Grego met her boyfriend while she was in high school — af­ter Gould played match­maker.

For the race, Gould wanted to do the run but needed team­mates so he coaxed Grego into swim­ming and in­vited a high school wrestler, Timmy Samec, to ride the bi­cy­cle stage of the race.

“Rob was ac­tu­ally the per­son who got me and Timmy to­gether,” Grego said. “He knew Timmy from bik­ing and me from swim­ming and (said) ‘OK, we’re go­ing to do a re­lay to­gether.’”

She and Samec have been to­gether seven years and both grad­u­ated from Slip­pery Rock Univer­sity. Cur­rently she is do­ing a ro­ta­tion for her physi­cian’s as­sis­tant cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in Panama City, Flor­ida, and said she is will­ing to help Gould at races in Flor­ida if he needs a vol­un­teer.

Samec, mean­while, is in his first year of grad­u­ate school at Clem­son Univer­sity.

Last month, he fin­ished sec­ond over­all in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence triathlon. For the past three years, he has been over­all cham­pion of the NEPA En­durance Fest se­ries of triathlons and duathlons. While at Slip­pery Rock he com­peted in na­tional col­le­giate triathlons and rep­re­sented the United States in races of the In­ter­na­tional Triathlon Union.

Samec said he might only have rid­den bi­cy­cles to keep in shape for wrestling at Ha­zle­ton Area High School, where he won 100 matches and two district ti­tles, if he hadn’t met Gould.

“He’s done ev­ery­thing a sin­gle per­son can do to get me to a place that I am, es­pe­cially ath­let­i­cally. My triathlon ca­reer would not be the same if not for Rob,” Samec said.

Gould’s men­tor­ing, Samec said, has a rip­ple ef­fect. The ath­letes that Gould trained keep pro­vid­ing role mod­els for younger ath­letes.

“I would be amazed if one per­son could put into words ev­ery­thing he’s done at the Y,” Samec said. “He’s re­ally go­ing to be missed in the area.”

Like Samec, Gould be­came a triath­lete by hap­pen­stance.

He be­gan or­ga­niz­ing triathlons and open-water swim­ming races to pro­vide his swim team mem­bers with dif­fer­ent train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. The Be­ware the Bar­racuda Triathlon that he started 14 years ago has a shorter race for chil­dren and teenagers.

While Gould had run in the Marines and started swim­ming in races af­ter be­com­ing a Y coach, he said “bik­ing be­came third and last.”

Af­ter Gould took up the three sports, he usu­ally placed near the top in lo­cal triathlons. He fin­ished an Iron Man Triathlon where the races swim 2.4 miles, bi­cy­cle 112 miles and run a marathon or 26.2 miles.

In 2013, he was con­sid­ered an All-Amer­i­can by the United States Triathlon As­so­ci­a­tion when he ranked in the top 5 per­cent of his age group na­tion­ally.

When mov­ing to Flor­ida, Gould said he hopes to start some en­durance races in ad­di­tion to over­see­ing and tim­ing es­tab­lished run­ning races on be­half of Sec­ond Wind, a com­pany that he hired to time rac- es that he di­rected and then started work­ing with part time.

“Sec­ond Wind Tim­ing brought in the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in race tim­ing, and other ser­vices that you might only ex­pect to see in larger events. Ath­letes and race di­rec­tors in our area loved all of the new race ameni­ties Sec­ond Wind brings, and as a re­sult I’ve be­come very busy with this side work,” Gould said. “So busy that I can make it full time.”

The first week­end that he ar­rives in Flor­ida, Sec­ond Wind sched­uled Gould to work at three races.

Be­fore leav­ing the Ha­zle­ton area, how­ever, Gould has one more task.

On Satur­day, he will be tim­ing the Ha­zle­ton Town and Trail races, which fea­ture Ha­zle­ton’s only half-marathon, plus 5- and 10-kilo­me­ter races that start at 9 a.m. as well as a chil­dren’s fun run at 8:20 a.m. and a youth mile run at 8:30 a.m.

Run­ners can still reg­is­ter for any of the races at town ntrail.com.



Rob Gould com­petes in the Black Bear Triathlon at Beltzville State Park near Le­high­ton in 2016.

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