Jumbo stars

‘Coach’ headlines athletics awards ceremony

Donald R. Megerle, the fabled coach of the men’s swim team for more than three decades and now director of the President’s Marathon Challenge, is the 2007 recipient of Tufts Athletics’ Distinguished Achievement Award.

Coach Don Megerle now provides inspiration to the runners who compete in the Tufts President’s Marathon Challenge. © BETHANY VERSOY

Megerle, who was honored on October 5 during Homecoming Weekend, joins a pantheon of New England sports legends who have received the award since its inception in 1987, including Celtics great Red Auerbach, NFL Hall of Famer John Hannah and Olympic medalists Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Nancy Kerrigan and Ben Smith.

“In almost 30 years in the competitive sports business, I have never met a person more deserving to be called ‘Coach,’ ” Athletics Director Bill Gehling said. Megerle “possesses exceptional leadership skills and instincts, along with an incredible passion for the art of coaching. His commitment to his athletes and to Tufts knows no bounds.”

And his swimmers, whom he coached from 1971 to 2004, remain equally committed to the man they simply call “Coach.” A video of his Tufts career, made by his swimmers, was shown at the awards ceremony.

Megerle was a seven-time New England or New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Coach of the Year for the Jumbos. His teams compiled a dual meet record of 268-81, and 92 of his swimmers posted All-American performances at NCAA championship meets. He coached numerous NCAA and New England champions and had 16 Academic All-Americans.

Beyond the success of his teams and individual athletes, Megerle created an esprit de corps among his swimmers that was even more significant than their competitive achievements. His swimmers dubbed it “Megerle Magic,” and those who swam for “Coach” entered into a lifetime relationship with their mentor. He celebrated their marriages and mourned their losses. In honor of his coaching and team-building skills, Megerle was named Tufts’ first Master Coach in 1997.

As popular as “Coach” is on campus, he’s equally revered in swimming circles around the nation. Megerle was the meet coordinator for 32 NCAA Men’s Division I Championships, 28 Men’s Division III Championships and 22 Women’s Division III Championships. From 1982 to 1998, he was secretary-treasurer of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, which in May awarded him its highest honor, the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy. He joined a league of luminaries, including Olympic Coach George Haines.

Since stepping down as swim coach in 2004, Megerle continues to mentor athletes who compete for the President’s Marathon Challenge. He helps train more than 200 runners who participate in the Boston Marathon each year to raise funds to support nutrition, medical and fitness research and education at Tufts. The fundraising goal for the April 2008 marathon is $400,000.

Eight other members of the Tufts Athletics community were also honored for their achievements on October 5, with the track and field program capturing three of the six student-athlete awards.

For the second year, Fred Jones, A07, took home the Clarence “Pop” Houston Award for best male athlete, after a 2007 season in which he earned All-American honors in the indoor long and triple jumps as well as the outdoor triple jump. Jones is the most decorated track athlete in Tufts history, earning seven consecutive trips to Nationals and garnering 10 All-American honors. Houston, A14, was Tufts’ first athletics director and a former president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Cat Beck, A08, and Kendall Swett, A08, tied in the voting for the Hester L. Sargent Award, named for a trustee emerita and given to the best female athlete. Beck helped the cross country team to a program-best fifth-place showing at the 2006 Division III Championships, while also posting two All-American performances in outdoor track. Swett, a diver who transferred from Lake Forest College before the start of the 2005-06 academic year, broke every Tufts diving record last season. At the NESCAC Championships, she set a conference record in the one-meter dive and won the three-meter dive by more than 40 points, following up that performance with top-10 finishes in both events at Nationals.

Sarah Crispin and Chris Decembrele, both of whom graduated in May, won the Rudolph J. Fobert Memorial Award, given to the best multi-sport athletes. The award honors Fobert, A50, G51, a former superintendent of the Lexington, Mass., school system. Crispin was captain of the women’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams last season, and finished first in the Division III New England Regional Championships for the second straight year. Decembrele made his mark in football and baseball. Last season, as a quad-captain and defensive end for the football team, he led the team in tackles for the third consecutive season. Splitting time at catcher and center field for the baseball team, Decembrele ranked in the top five on the team in home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, triples and stolen bases.

Kathleen Martin (field hockey) and Aaron Nass (soccer), both 2007 graduates, won the Rev. W. Murray Kenney Award, named for the 1941 alumnus who was a three-sport athlete, for their perseverance and dedication to athletics. Martin overcame compartment syndrome and a knee injury to start every game for the Jumbos in 2006. Nass suffered a near-fatal pulmonary embolism before coming back to start 13 games in his senior year.

Evans Clinchy, A09, executive sports editor of the Tufts Daily, received the Timothy J. Horgan Award for sports writing. The award is named for the 1949 Tufts graduate who went on to become a nationally known sports writer.

This story ran in the November 2007 issue of the Tufts Journal.