Catching up with: Former Austin swim coach Bud HigginsPublished 10:23pm Friday, October 12, 2012
Former Austin boys swimming coach Bud Higgins was instrumental in building up the Packer swim team to what it is today. Now he might have the pool in Ellis Middle School named after him.
The AHS school board is currently considering naming the pool after Higgins and a decision is likely to be reached in December.
The mere possibility of having that honor is quite humbling for Higgins, who coached the Packers from 1960-1981, while leading them to four Big Nine championships with a career dual of record of 141-94-3.
“I had a lot of great swimmers,” Higgins, who is in the Minnesota Hall of Fame for coaches, said. “It would be quite an honor (to have the pool named after me) and I’d be humbled by it. It’s symbolic of all the gifted swimmers and great assistant coaches I’ve had over the years.”
Higgins worked as an official after he got out of coaching and he now runs Higgins Books on Main Street. His store sells vintage paperbacks and it even has all of Dick Seltz’s old scorebooks from when he coached the Packer baseball team.
Higgins, who used to teach English, had always planned on running a book store when he retired and he is doing that today.
Looking back on his career, Higgins recalls the journey of Randy Stoike, who was hit by a motorcycle on his way to swimming practice after having beaten the top breaststroker in the state over the previous summer.
Stoike was told he would never walk again and he had to give up the breaststroke.
“I was gonna make him manager, but he wanted to swim,” Higgins said. “We tried him on the freestyle, but he couldn’t do it with his leg, so we went with the breaststroke.”
In his junior season, Stoike ended up getting caught in the rope on a turn at the state meet and he finished in seventh place. His senior year, which was in 1965, Stoike won the state title and he received a standing ovation from everyone in the building.
Higgins also likes to look back on his 1975 team that won conference and section titles and beat Mason City, which won the Iowa state championship.
Another favorite memory of Higgins is that his son John Higgins has held the AHS breaststroke record for the past 35 years.
Higgins said the key to having a good swimming team is having swimmers who worked hard and got themselves in peak condition. Some of Higgins’ swimmers didn’t compete in any other sports because they kept their focus on the pool.
“When you’re training as hard as these guys do year round, you don’t really have time for other sports,” Higgins said.
There was one season where Austin won a state cross country title and the Packer swimmers dared a few of the cross country runners to come out for swimming. Three runners showed up for the first day of practice, but none of them lasted too long.
“One was gone after the first day, the other was gone after second day and the third one made it a week before he quit,” Higgins said.