High School Sports

This coach helped mold future Olympians. Now he is ready for a new life.

Longtime Pine Crest swimming coach Jay Fitzgerald announced his retirement after 23 seasons. Fitzgerald coached 53 individual state champions during his tenure.
Longtime Pine Crest swimming coach Jay Fitzgerald announced his retirement after 23 seasons. Fitzgerald coached 53 individual state champions during his tenure. Pine Crest School

Pine Crest announced this week that legendary swimming coach Jay Fitzgerald will retire at the end of the high school year.

Fitzgerald has spent the past 23 seasons as the head of the school’s swimming program and guided the Panthers boys’ and girls’ teams each to numerous championships.

Under Fitzgerald’s tutelage, Pine Crest’s boys achieved 16 state runner-up finishes and the girls posted 10 of their own.

“Coach Fitzgerald has built an amazing program at Pine Crest,” Pine Crest Athletic Director Jeff Johnson said. “He has had a long-lasting impact on our student-athletes. His investment in them as swimmers and individuals has inspired them to work hard and succeed beyond their imaginations.”

Only Jacksonville Bolles, owners of one of the nation’s all-time best state championship dynasties in any sport, kept the Panthers from bringing home the gold. Bolles claimed its 30th consecutive boys’ title and 27th in a row on the girls’ side although Pine Crest’s girls came within 10 points of ending that streak in 2016.

Although they couldn’t win a team title Fitzgerald coached 53 individual state champions during his tenure and 251 high school All-Americans and 16 Olympians, many of whom were among Pine Crest swimmers that set 30 state records.

The Panthers’ boys also won 10 regional titles and 21 district titles during Fitzgerald’s tenure and the girls won 12 regional crowns and 21 district titles.

Two-time Olympian and Pine Crest Associate Director of Aquatics Mariusz Podkoscielny, who has been a member of the coaching staff for 12 years, will take over the program next summer.

Fitzgerald, a 16-time Miami Herald Coach of the Year, served as the U.S. men’s national team’s coach for the 1997 World Championships, and he received the NFHS South Sectional National High School Coach of the Year in 2006. He received the NISCA Achievement Award for Excellence in High School Coaching in 2011.

Fitzgerald was inducted into the American Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

“Jay Fitzgerald has had a profound impact, not only on the swimming world, but on the entire Pine Crest School community,” said Pine Crest President Dr. Dana Markham in a statement. “Coach’s work ethic and passion for his sport are admirable, and he has served as an example for our student-athletes. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

▪ South Miami 35, Sunset 34 - SM (1-0) Carvajal 12, Lopez 17, Cruz 4, Evora 2. Sun (0-1): Algivar 23, Villareon 3, Gibbs 8. Half: Sun 21-14. Rebounds: Carvajal 11. Steals: Cruz 9. Assists: Lopez 3.

BOYS’ SOCCER

▪ La Salle 8, Chaminade Madonna 0: La Salle improves to 3-0.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

▪ St. Brendan 71, Divine Savior 48: Franky Garcia 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals; Matthew Pizarro 13 points 9 rebounds; StB 3-0.

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