Gutter Talk: Stories About Jack Bauerle – Former Georgia Stars Share Tales From Their Times With Legendary Coach

Jack Bauerle

In the July issue of Swimming World Magazine, the monthly Gutter Talk feature focused on Jack Bauerle, who had just announced his retirement as the head coach at the University of Georgia. Senior Writer David Rieder asked several athletes who were mentored by Bauerle to share a story or two from their time together.

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I came to UGA with the mindset of swimming any event my team needed me to swim. My freshman year NCAA champs, it was the 200 free, 400 free and mile (short course meters). I won the 200 free that year and got eighth in the mile. While I could swim the distance events, I loved the sprints. At the 2001 NCAA Champs in Long Island, N.Y., my team needed me in the 100 free, 200 free and 500 free. I made a bet with Jack that if I did well in the 100 free, that we would trade the 500 free for the 50 free. Sure enough, I got second in the 100 free and dropped two seconds off my best time and pulled off a 47.8 as the anchor on the final relay to help us clinch the national championship. Then in 2002, I swam the 50 free, and not only did I win the NCAA title, but I also broke my first individual American record. All Jack could say was, “Ritz, it’s a good thing I made the right decision to put you in the 50 free instead of the 500 free.” He still, jokingly, tries to take credit for the decision to do the 50 over the 500.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

I think it was early fall one year and we were doing some race 50s kick. Jack was giving me a hard time that Jordan (Mattern—then girlfriend, now wife) was kicking my butt on the other side of the pool. I made some sarcastic comment that I would win if we were actually racing, so he made me get out and move next to her for the last one. She supposedly beat me again—I still claim it was a tie—but he wouldn’t let me forget it for the next month. He always just had so much fun with the sport while always knowing exactly how to get the best out of everyone.


Jack never gave up on me when I had double knee surgery after my junior year. He called and checked on me a lot after I had my surgeries and never pushed me too much until I was ready to be pushed. My senior year, I fought as hard as I could to be as good of a swimmer as I was before, but it was challenging. On the last day of NCAAs, I finished fifth in the 200 fly with a best time. I wasn’t sure I would finish my season, but I did. I walked over to the coaches after my race, and Jack pulled me close and said, “Thank you for everything you did and gave to this program.” We both knew my surgeries held me back, but the support he gave me was all I needed to push through to finish my collegiate career.

KRISTY KOWAL (1996-2000)

Kristy KowalJack became like a second father to me. There are too many stories during my swimming career to narrow it down to just one. But the relationship that had formed over those eight years with Jack as my coach didn’t end when I retired from swimming. In 2010, I was being inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. The banquet was in Detroit, and they had originally asked Jon Urbanchek to introduce me. Jon told the committee that they should really call Jack and have him come up. I had no idea that Jack had flown up to introduce me at the banquet until I saw him AT the banquet. And I can’t even tell you how excited he was when he found out that Greg Luzinksi of the Philadelphia Phillies was there, too. Anyone who knows Jack knows he is the BIGGEST Phillies fan. It was such a quick trip that in his rush to get there, Jack actually had accidentally packed his son’s dress shirt and had to run out and get one between the airport and the banquet. But that is just the type of person Jack is—willing to hop on a plane right after Saturday morning practice to support one of his former swimmers.

BRITTANY MacLEAN (2012-16)

One of Jack’s greatest strengths was focusing on the person behind the athlete—not just in the water, but out. The first thing he would say coming on deck for an afternoon practice was, “Get any A’s today?” He wanted to learn about our passions and would constantly check in on them. Knowing I loved my Canadian sports teams, when the Toronto Blue Jays made a playoff push in 2015, he made sure to give me play-by-play updates during every practice. When I lost my club coach, Kevin Thorburn, in 2020, Jack was the very first phone call I received offering his condolences and sharing stories of their time together. Going into each dual meet, we would all stretch together and then have a little chat as a team. Jack always kept us humble, convincing us almost every single time that “on paper, we’re going to lose this thing.” It didn’t matter what team we were racing. It was instilled in us that we always had to earn every point, not just assume them.



Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

We all always joke that Jack is the mayor of Athens (Ga.). You can meet the most random people in Athens, including the guy who works at the Sam’s Club Tire Center. True story, the guy noticed my UGA swim-and-dive sticker on my car and started talking about Jack. Everyone in Athens knows him and has something positive to say about him. Well, when we went to Croatia for (World Championships) training camp in 2017, Jack almost immediately found someone to copy off his workouts for him, and none of the other coaches had yet. He was trying to give away USA Swimming stuff to anyone who helped him. People started joking he would be the mayor of Croatia by the time we left for Worlds. It’s just who the guy is—kind to everyone, everyone is a friend, and he’s always ready to repay someone for their kindness.


One of my favorite stories about Jack was when he came to Columbia, S.C., to do a home visit. I had a volleyball match, which Jack came to watch, but I was also required by my coach to stay and watch the JV match afterward, which Jack had to endure as well before we could go out to eat. As a coach, it is a testament to what you have to do sometimes when you are recruiting. Jack has the unique ability to connect with people on a personal level. When I think back, I am always appreciative that Jack stayed to watch that JV match. It meant a lot to me, and I’ll never forget it.