Stellar swim coach remembered at vigil

Players hope BCHS pool will be renamed in his honor

Heidi Wright and Sydney Jasper

Over the winter break, students and staff were shocked to learn that well-known and beloved swim coach Tom Downer died on December 27, in a kite surfing accident in the Cayman Islands.
A vigil held in Downer’s honor on January 3 was attended by over a hundred mourners impacted by Downer and his swim program. Many students in attendance say that as a tribute to his impact on the swimming community the pool should be dedicated in his name.
A request has been made and the steps in place are being followed for this dedication
Downer taught a variety of lessons ranging from waterpolo, lifeguarding, CPR, diving and swimming. He worked with kids of all ages and ran year-round aquatic programs including Bear Creek Aquatics.
“I knew Tom in many different facets: as a coach, as a mentor, as a father figure, and as a friend,” Bear Creek swim and water polo alumna Megan Kirwin said.
Downer was known for welcoming students of all ability, never giving up as an athlete, and mentoring and seeing potential in each kid he taught.
Students say Downer used water as a life lesson not only to work hard, but to overcome battles.
“I was intrigued by his coaching style,” PE teacher Dave Maggetti, who had known Downer for over ten years, said. “I found him incredibly intense, motivated, and highly passionate in everything he did.”
His water polo and swim athletes say there was never a time when Downer wasn’t at the pool.
“Tom was always there before and after practice for me to talk to him and perfect my style,” junior Ethan Mclaughlin said.
Coaches that eat, breathe, and live their sport are rare and his students say through Downer’s passion they learned a new perspective on life.
According to published reports, while kitesurfing in the Cayman Islands, situated next to Cuba and Jamaica, Downer was swept away by the wind and collided with a building on Colliers Public Beach. Downer was rushed to the hospital unresponsive and died on December 27. Through his athletes the memory of Tom will never dim.