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Westport/Weston Y's Water Rat Leader Named National Coach of the Year

Water Rat Head Coach Ellen Johnston, the National YMCA Coach of the Year. Photo Credit: Contributed
Water Rat Head Coach Ellen Johnston with other coaches. Photo Credit: Contributed
Ellen at the YMCA's Opening Gala Celebration in October 2014, with former coach Bob Knoebel, former Water Rat Chris Halstead and former coach Bill Krumm. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Ellen Johnston, head coach of the Westport/Weston Family YMCA Water Rat Swim Team, was selected on April 2 as the National YMCA Coach of the Year.

The award, which is given at the YMCA Short Course National Swimming Championship, was announced during finals at the Greensboro Aquatic Complex in North Carolina.

Going into April 2’s session of the week-long meet, the Water Rat Men’s Team was in second place and the team overall was tied for 26th place, among nearly 200 elite teams competing for YMCAs across the country. Johnston celebrated 25 years with the Water Rat Swim Team in 2011 and was named head coach of the Water Rats in 2012.

“We are so very proud of Ellen,” said Bonnie Strittmatter, president of the Family YMCA’s volunteer board of directors and a former Water Rat parent. “Over the past 29 years she has mentored and coached thousands of children, teaching them that success comes from dedication and hard work.”

“Ellen exemplifies the Y values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility every day, on and off the pool deck,” Strittmatter added. “She has set a standard of behavior and commitment with these kids, and these are lessons that last a lifetime. That is her legacy.”

“It’s a tremendous honor that is a total team effort,” said Ellen, during a short break from her coaching duties on the pool deck at “Y Nats” in Greensboro, which concluded Friday, April 3. Johnston joined the Water Rat team in November 1986 as an assistant coach, working with swimmers at every level in the program. She quickly became a full-time assistant coach and was promoted to Senior Coach in 1990.

“All the time and effort Ellen and her team have put in has paid off, and we couldn’t be more proud of her and the entire Water Rat team,” said Nicole Turechek, aquatics director.

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