Spencer Pake: 2016 Daily News Coach of the Year

Published 9:38 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

Washington swimming has enjoyed plenty of success with the girls, but the boys had never claimed a regional championship — let alone a state title — until this past season.

Spencer Pake was at the helm as Washington’s boys’ swim team traveled the Cary for the 1-A/2-A state championship meet. They were fresh off the program’s first-ever regional championship, but Pake knew his group had the talent to accomplish more. How much more? Well, that was up in the air, especially since Washington didn’t have diving team.

“Coming into this season, I knew we had a very strong boys team,” Pake said. “Without us being in a conference … We’re just out there competing, practicing and seeing how good we actually are. I was very pleased with how they were winning every meet.

Washington is the only school in the Eastern Plains Conference with a swim team, so the Pam Pack set its sights on making the entire eastern region its stomping ground. Regardless of the history, Pake had seen the boys rise through the ranks of East Carolina Aquatics.

He knew they were capable of something special. They traveled to Cary first for the regional championship. Winning it gave them the script they’d follow for the state championship. The key in both meets was a strong showing on the backend of the meet.

They got just that. Then-leader Bishop McGuiness had a nine-point lead on Washington heading into the end of the meet. However, the last three events — the 100-yard backstroke, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 400-yard freestyle relay — were the team’s strongest.

The boys shattered school records. Kevin Andrews became the first boy in school history to win an individual state title when he finished first in the 100-yard backstroke.

Pake watched all of his hard work and all of the team’s hard work pay off before his very eyes. It was something he knew they were capable of, but was still incredible to witness.

“Those boys had the swims of their lives at regionals only to surpass that a week later,” he said. “I told the boys, ‘If we can keep it close and have some good swims in the first half, we can make some magic happen.’ It was a wonderful feeling.

“All of the excitement, it took a couple of days for it to really sink in. We really did just make history. This team is going down in the record books as one of the best swim teams Washington has ever had.”

Pake leadership was instrumental to the team’s success, but he is outspoken in deferring the credit to the swimmers.

“It means the world. I give everything to those boys and all the hard work they’ve put in,” Pake said. “This championship is because of them.”

There have been a lot of strong teams in Beaufort County in the past few years, but Pake accomplished something remarkable by taking his team all the way and getting them over that hump. Even with the championship still being a fresh memory, he can’t help but look forward to what the future holds.