CASSTOWN — Speaking of the time he interviewed Carol Bollinger for the head varsity swimming coach job, Miami East athletic director Scott Donaldson said it was the easiest one he ever conducted.
“I asked her what her qualifications were. She said, ‘I was a member of the U.S. Olympic swimming team,’” he said. “I said, ‘Well, all right then.’”
And since she took over the Viking swimming program in 2009 that current Troy Christian coach Jim Fulton started, Bollinger has helped the team grow from not even a handful of athletes to almost 30 swimmers — and after it sent its first competitor ever to the state tournament last year, the program repeated that feat over the weekend, as Meredith Richters qualified to the state meet for the second straight season.
“I was coaching as an assistant coach at MCY, and my children went to Miami East,” Bollinger said. “He got my foot in the door, and midway through 2009 and 2010, I took over the program. And I had three swimmers.”
And while her connection to Fulton from the MCY may have gotten her foot in the door at East, her Olympic background kicked it wide open.
“I was a member of the Olympic team in Seoul (South Korea) in 1988, and I swam in college for four years at the University of Louisville,” Bollinger said. “It wasn’t as big; it was a growing program when I was there. Now they’re, like, seventh in the nation. It’s still a great program. And I went to Conner Senior High School in Kentucky.”
Work brought her to Ohio, though, where she met her husband, and their children Abby and McKenna Bollinger attended Miami East High School and swam for the Vikings. Twins, they graduated in 2017, and McKenna was the team’s first four-time district qualifier.
“If you told me back then that I was going to coach, I would’ve said no way,” Bollinger said. “It was just a nice chance since the girls started swimming, and I was here all the time, so I thought I might as well get back into it — and the MCY gave me that opportunity. And yeah, the interview (with Donaldson) was pretty easy. He took it pretty gracefully.
“Just being here, you kind of get sucked into it. And I love age group swimming. I forgot the energy that high school kids have. That first year, it was just nice to be back on deck and be part of that energy.”
One of those three first swimmers that Bollinger had during the 2009-10 season was Juli Accurso — and Donaldson said he believed her time on the swimming team helped her win her individual state championship in the 1,600 during track and field season that spring.
“I watched her run after she swam for me, and I told her, ‘Why do you wait until the last lap to go for it?’” Bollinger said. “And before state, she told me she was going to go for it. And she texted me right after she won, so that was super exciting.”
And from those modest beginnings, the Viking program has grown under Bollinger and become a power in the Southwest district, regularly sending numerous qualifiers to Miami University.
“We have 28 kids in the program this year,” Bollinger said. “It’s been amazing. It’s what you want for the program. I have a lot of second- and third-generation kids now, too — kids that I’ve had their brother or their sister or their cousin, so that helps a ton. I have four four-year seniors with me, and I have nine seniors. So I gained five just this year.”
Last year, junior Meredith Richters became the first Viking to qualify for the state meet, finishing 22nd in the 200 IM. This season, she qualified in a pair of events, posting the 12th-best state qualifying in the 100 breast and 13th-best in the 100 fly. The boys had a relay team qualify for the district meet this season, also, as the 200 free relay team of A.J. Christian, Jackson Tucker, Erik Austerman and Gavin Trabert reached the district level.
“I think Meredith will podium at district this year,” Bollinger said earlier in the week. “But I’m a nervous wreck. Honestly, I think I’m more anxious than they are.
“I’m really excited, especially for the boys. Jackson’s a four-year senior, and three of the four boys on the relay just started swimming this year. Not one of them are club swimmers, and that’s an amazing feat in the state of Ohio.”
Bollinger hopes that the program will only keep growing.
“When Mr. Donaldson interviewed me, he told me that the school has an 88 percent participation rate, and he said that maybe I’d be able to get the other 12 percent,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve had first-year kids come up to me and say ‘I should’ve been doing this since my freshman year’ … and I said, ‘Yes!’”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.