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Newark High School Pool facility renamed James R. DeWitt Natatorium

by WayneTimes.com
January 13, 2024

The 10th annual Jim DeWitt Invitational at Newark High School January 6th was made extra special this year when the indoor pool area was renamed the “James R. DeWitt Natatorium” in honor of the beloved Newark Middle School guidance counselor who coached swimming at various levels for 33 years in the Newark Central School District before he passed in 2014 after a lengthy and valiantly fought battle with cancer.

Perkins Special Education teacher Jeffery Garrett, Head Coach for the NHS Boys Swimming and Diving Team, whose swimming coach was DeWitt for 3 years before he graduated in 2012 -  wanted to do something extra special for the10th Jim DeWitt Invitational.      

Garrett, who received Board of Education approval to rename the NHS pool area in DeWitt’s honor last month, explained how it came to be to team members, fans and coaches at the beginning of the invitational.

“I had the pleasure of swimming for Jim DeWitt in high school, and he truly was an incredible person. He brought out the best in you, and made you want to be a better swimmer and a better person. It is remarkable what he was able to do while fighting a terrible and aggressive illness, something his swimmers were never aware of. I can’t believe that 2024 marks ten years since his passing, and that this year is our tenth Jim DeWitt Invitational.

“As I was planning for this meet, there were so many things that I wanted to do to make today special. As I wracked my brain for different ideas, I kept coming back to one overarching thought. Coach DeWitt stood for so many things that were bigger than swimming; he was passionate about instilling in his swimmers the ideals of work ethic, sportsmanship, civility, teamwork, compassion, empathy, and dedication for excellence. His teachings transcended the pool and were life lessons, many of which I still think about today. So, I decided that I      wanted Coach DeWitt and what he stood for to be showcased not just on the one day a year that we host this invitational, but every day for everyone who walks into this pool area.

“I approached my Athletic Director Jon Mastin with an idea, and after a long and lengthy process, I wrote a proposal to put before our Superintendent Susan Hasenauer and Board of Education. I would like to read a short excerpt from my proposal.

“Coach DeWitt embodied the core values that are at the heart of our district – being a great teammate, being safe, respectful, responsible, and building a community – and did so throughout his multiple tenures as a coach. To me, in a world where negativity can be found so easily, being able to walk into the pool and see the name of an individual who stood for so much positivity can not only benefit our swim programs, but every other student-athlete, parent, community member, or competitor that walks through our doors.”

Garrett’s presentation was preceded by remarks made by Jason Stevens, Boys Varsity Swimming and Diving head coach for Palmyra-Macedon. Here is some of what Stevens said.  

“Jim was a great man, who was extremely dedicated to his family, his athletes and his students here at the Newark Schools, I was fortunate to have been coached by Jim when I was in the Wahoo’s Age Group program.  I was extremely fortunate to coach shoulder-to-shoulder with Jim . . .  I learned so much from Jim; how the person is more than just an athlete, how to toss a practice in the garbage when it’s just not going well, I learned skills, technique and progressions . . . After knowing Jim for so long, I realize why people gravitated towards him; when you were with him, it didn’t matter how many people were around. You felt like you were the ONLY person that mattered.  He exuded his love and respect for people the sport of swimming . . .”

After Garrett spoke, he directed everyone’s attention to the right of the scoreboard when the sign renaming the room was being unveiled.

“ I am very excited to announce that today’s meet is the first of many that will take place in the newly renamed “James R. DeWitt Natatorium,” he said proudly as the room erupted in applause.

“I would be remiss if I did not thank those who made this possible – Superintendent Susan Hasenauer, Board of Education members Julie Nevelizer, Mary Thoms, Miranda Brooks-Ruggeri, Steve DeRenzo, Scott Verbridge, Matt Burgess and Russell Harris; Athletic Director Jon Mastin, Girls Varsity Coach Jalen Nau, my awesome assistant coaches Matt Roelands and Chip Murphy, and Modified Coach Karen Cline.”

Lastly, Garrett introduced DeWitt’s widow, Nancy, “whose blessing made this entirely possible today.”

Mrs. DeWitt, who was at the event with son, Jim, and his 4-year-old twin daughters, Claire and Lydia, spoke briefly, but gratefully saying she and her family were both honored and pleased about the recognition. 

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