by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Former Elk River swimmer Luke Johnson is the new coach of the Elk girls team, succeeding longtime coach Colleen Killpatrick.
“Luke comes from a great swim background and coaching experience,” said Mike Cunningham, activities director. “He has coached at multiple levels, including high school and club. We feel that his experience, as well as his passion for Elk River, will allow us to build on the great tradition of Elk River swimming.”
Johnson, 30, currently coaches the Fastjets Swim Club in Blaine. His main occupation is vice president of Minnesota Fresh Farm, a family-run agribusiness.
Previously he coached with Jetstream Aquatics, Hopkins Hurricanes, and several Masters groups. At Hopkins, his swimmers set three age-group state records.
A St. John’s University graduate, he swam one year for the Johnnies and played water polo for four years. He coached at St. Cloud Apollo his last three years of college.
“I am very excited to hit the ground running with this team,” said Johnson. “This is a complex situation with three schools combining for practices and separating for the end of season meets. In studying the results of the team, we could be very strong for years to come. I intend to focus on both individual and team success.”
He referred to the pairing of Elk River, Rogers and Zimmerman, competing as one team during the regular season but required to split into three for sectional and state competition. The 2001 graduate of Elk River Area High School noted that things were simpler then was Rogers and Zimmerman athletes competed for Elk River before the district split.
With the Elks, under coach Denise Eidem, Johnson, was a versatile but not outstanding swimmer, filling in wherever needed.
“Looking back at the results Coach Eidem and (Randy) Doesken prepared for us, my best races were when team strategy was involved,” reflected Johnson, who currently swims in MN Masters and has has twice won short course nationals in the 1650 freestyle.
His predecessor, Killpatrick, coached 19 years, and every season had a winning record and at least one entrant in the state finals. She moved to Lakeville in 2011 after getting married, and continued to coach the Elks one more season before resigning, due mainly to the travel involved.
Doug Bloom, Killpatrick’s assistant all 19 years, also resigned.