State mourns legendary Westside, Nebraska coach
Legendary Westside coach and educator Cal Bentz died Tuesday after a hard fought battle with cancer. An inductee into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, Bentz is widely regarded as one of the state’s greatest swimming and diving coaches of all time.
Cal Bentz started at Westside High School in 1963 and was the Swim and Dive coach until 1977. In that time, he won 16 Boys and Girls championship titles and helped Westside earn national respect in the sport.
“Cal was the coach that the rest of us strived to become. He was the Guru!” said Westside Head Coach Doug Krecklow. “He was instrumental in my hiring in 1979 and his mentoring throughout the early 80’s helped me keep Westside’s program at the top.”
Krecklow notes Bentz’s innovation, using resistance and other forms of out-of-water training to help student athletes swim faster.
“His original weight program included pulling on ropes that were attached to a spring loaded recoiling cylinder and lifting conduit that was buried in coffee cans filled with concrete,” said Krecklow.
Beyond Westside, Bentz was instrumental in helping other Nebraska high schools add Girls Swimming programs. He is credited by many as building the foundation for high school swimming and diving in the state of Nebraska.
Bentz then spent the next 22 years at the University of Nebraska, where he won 15 Men’s conference championships, 3 Women’s titles and numerous Top 10 finishes with both squads. His athletes include nearly 100 All Americans and 22 Olympians. In 2005, Bentz was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, who wrote: “No one understood the sport of swimming better than this great aquatic coach.”
Even after leaving Westside, Bentz remained proud of District 66, returning annually for the Athletic Hall of Fame banquet.
“I believe he really enjoyed his time at WHS,” said Athletic Director Tom Kerkman. “I always thought it was pretty neat to see him come back and still be part of it. I was impressed by his passion for swimming and working with athletes. He was still training outstanding swimmers in Lincoln.”
“There are so many things he did, but suffice it to say, he was the roots that Nebraska high school swimming and diving has become,” said Krecklow.
“As one can see, he was everything to swimming,” said Kerkman.