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SWIMMING: Veteran LH coach leaving the boys program, sticking with the girls

WALLINGFORD — Donna Neary has been involved with Lyman Hall swimming for the better part of the last four decades. The veteran coach is now taking a half-step back from her duties.

Neary is stepping down as head coach of the Lyman Hall-Coginchaug boys swimming and diving team at the end of this season, which culminates Saturday with the State Open.

Neary will remain on as head coach of the the Lyman Hall girls swim program, which competes in the fall.

Neary has separate stints as the LH girls head coach, the first starting in 1983 and lasting 19 seasons. She came back as an assistant and eventually took over the girls program again in 2014.

She took over the boys team in 2013 and has been at the helm since.

The main reason she’s stepping down is because she has a condo in Florida and would like to spend the winters in the Sunshine State.

“Since I retired from teaching I bought a place and car in Florida and I’m a Florida resident now,” Neary said. “The girls season is short and sweet, and its great to be up here in the fall. The boys season is very long and I’m paying condo fees in Florida, and it makes no sense to leave a condo empty.

“It’s hard to take that final foot out of the state; I’ve lived here my whole life. It’s hard. I’m glad I could finish this season with these nine seniors. It’s our first real full season with this group. I wanted to be here for that.”

Neary had her former diving coach, Stephanie Lavado-Berghorn, lead the team from Dec. 1 through 24 before returning to Connecticut to coach the boys for the rest of the season.

“It’s an end of an era,” said Neary, the SCC Swim coach of the Year in 2022. “It’s hard to step away. I’ve been doing this for a while.

“This is a great group of kids” she added. “They really like each other. They always do a group picture every time we get off the bus. It’s nice to go out with a group like that that really likes each other. They are very close.”

Neary plans on spending her winters coaching tri-athletes in Florida. She departs next week for her condo until the girls season starts.

Neary has family close by in Jupiter, Fla., including two sisters and a nephew. Neary will come back to Connecticut in June for end-of-school awards.

“I still have a foot in Connecticut,” Neary said. “I’m like (longtime Meriden swim coach) Ed Heath. We always end up coming back.”


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