Dean Roedel is perhaps best known in El Dorado as the high school’s successful swim team coach.
And rightfully so. Roedel coached the high school swim teams most of the years between 1977 and 2006, with many of his athletes winning medals and furthering their swim careers at the collegiate level.
But Roedel has worn so many hats for USD 490 during the past 51 years that he can barely keep track of all of them.
Roedel started as the head wrestling coach and assistant baseball coach for El Dorado High School, positions he held for a decade, during the 1965-1966 academic year. He has been a long-time teacher and substitute teacher, reaching thousands of students with his caring but no-nonsense approach in the classroom. And perhaps his most giving role was the one of bus driver, when he drove teams of athletes – his and other coaches’ – across the state to sporting competitions.
Dave Sundgren, Sam Leben and Lou Clennan decided it was about time somebody honor Roedel for the hours he has given to El Dorado’s young people. They wanted to name the high school swimming pool area after Roedel. Thus the Dean Roedel Natatorium Project was born.
“It’s not very often we have someone in public service, in education, who is in our school district for 50 years,” Sundgren said.
Sundgren was a four-year letter winner as a wrestler under Roedel back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Leben served as the wrestling team’s manager during the same time period. More than 30 years later, they cherish fond memories of their coach. Clennan’s interest in the project was as the parent of children who swam under Roedel. They were later joined by others who wanted to support the cause.
The newly formed project committee approached the USD 490 school board about dedicating the pool area to Roedel by renaming it. The board approved the plan in January 2016, with the understanding that the committee would donate $30,000 to the high school swimming program with the intent to purchase an automatic timing system, signage and perhaps even a new scoreboard for the main gymnasium.
The group commenced raising money through Partners in Education. Group members started a Facebook page, Dean Roedel Natatorium Project, where former swimmers and their friends and families have liked, commented and donated to the project.
Roedel said one of his proudest moments as a coach was when the boys’ swimming team won five Ark Valley League titles in six years, the last of that series being in 1991. He shared many stories about times he enjoyed interacting with student-athletes.
“I always enjoyed coaching,” Roedel said.
Roedel tried to retire from coaching swimming several times. First, the school could not find another swim coach with experience, so he agreed to stay on for one year, which turned into many years. When EHS finally hired another coach, that coach became ill, and Roedel took over again.
“I not only had good swimmers, but we encouraged them to do well in school,” Roedel said. “The other thing I was always proud of is we had a good following, with parents and things.”
Sundgren encouraged those who have been positively influenced by Roedel to donate to the project.
“Anyone who dedicates that time and energy in our school system should be honored,” he said. “I learned a lot of discipline and other life characteristics from him that have served me since then. I have a lot of debt I’ll never be able to pay back.”
To donate to the Dean Roedel Natatorium Project, call Partners in Education at (316)322-4800 or donate online here .