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Conelly retires as Kentucky swim coach

University of Kentucky swimming and diving coach Gary Conelly is retiring after 22 years in charge of the program.
University of Kentucky swimming and diving coach Gary Conelly is retiring after 22 years in charge of the program.

Gary Conelly, who guided more than 60 All-Americans during his 22 years in charge, announced his retirement as head coach of the University of Kentucky's swimming and diving programs on Wednesday.

"Retirement is one of those things you think you're never going to reach and then it's here," Conelly said in a UK news release. "I've been really fortunate to be at Kentucky and it's been a pleasure to work with everyone — athletes, coaches and administrators."

The team will continue to train with the current staff under interim head coach Lars Jorgenson.

Conelly said the friendships are what he will miss the most.

"What I enjoyed most, in general, was doing something special together as a team, to experience the camaraderie of the athletes and coaches," he said. "I heard someone say at the CATSPYs, 'One of the best things in life is to do hard things with your friends' and that's what I enjoyed — working together to get somewhere."

Conelly began his coaching career at Kentucky as the head women's coach for the 1991-92 season after spending three seasons as a graduate assistant with the Wildcats. A year later, Conelly added the men's team to his responsibilities and became Kentucky's head swimming coach. He went on to lead the teams to more than 200 victories.

"Gary has helped hundreds of student-athletes realize their dreams in and out of the pool," said UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.

Just this semester, UK's men's and women's teams received College Swimming Coaches Association All-America honors after posting the highest grade-point averages in program history. The women's GPA of 3.48 ranked 12th nationally. The men's 3.17 was 31st.

Conelly guided UK's teams to 15 top-20 NCAA finishes during his 22 years.

He also coached U.S. Olympian Rachel Komisarz, who won gold and silver medals in the 2004 Olympics.

Connelly was named Southeastern Conference Swimming Coach of the Year in 1994-95.

Before taking up coaching, Conelly competed on the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team, and was part of a world record-setting 400-meter freestyle relay team. He was a 15-time NCAA All-American at Indiana and is a member of the Indiana Swimming Hall of Fame.