By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
STATE CHAMPS: The Jenks boys’ swim team celebrate a state championship in early 2017. They hope to win another in February under the leadership of Diego Henao, who takes over the coaching reins after 11 seasons as an assistant.
Photo Courtesy Jenks High School Athletic Department
Diego Henao is taking over the reins of the Jenks swim program after the retirement of veteran coach John Turner last spring.
However, nothing has changed other than the title, Henao said.
“I don’t see much of a difference,” Henao said. “I have other assistants and I treat them like we are co-workers, so we’ll have fun during practice. It is a little more responsibility being a head coach because you have to make decisions.”
Henao, a native of Venezuela, has long been involved with the program.
He came to Jenks as an exchange student at the age of 17 and was welcomed by Turner into his home.
After graduating in 1991, Henao went across town to Oral Roberts University. But, when the school dropped its swim program, he transferred to Northeast Louisiana, known today as the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
He remained in the Cajun state to coach swimming until 2007, when he returned to Jenks to serve as an assistant under Turner.
Now, 11 years later, he is the head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ teams.
“I don’t call it a job. I call it like my hobby, I guess,” Henao said.
“It’s been different. It’s been fun,” he added. “It’s different because it’s a different age. I usually coach kids from 8-18. Now, the specific age is from 14-18. There is a smaller gap between the ages, and they all have the same goal and that is to win the title for the state meet of Oklahoma.
“It’s fun because the kids want to do it,” he said. “It’s fun to see them growing from an early age, to high school and then to college.”
The Jenks boys placed second at state last season in Edmond after winning the year before. That result motivates them in their quest to win state again.
“Last year, they had a chance to win and they lost by a few points. It’s not good when they lose by just a few points. They were upset. Now, they’re hungry and they’re training. They don’t want that to happen again.”
Jenks has battled Norman North for swimming titles in recent years. The Timberwolves were the team that edged out the Trojans last February.
“Norman North has got some great swimmers, but we’re going to do it better,” Henao said.
Among key swimmers who are back this winter are juniors Austin Bick, Andrew Truong and sophomore Austin Sung.
The Lady Trojans finished sixth in the girls’ meet. With an increase in numbers, they hope to finish higher.
“We have some great freshman. We have a lot of talent. We have a great group of girls who are really going to step up,” Henao said. “They know it’s not going to be easy for them to win, but, I think they’re going to step up this year. Last year, they did really well. From the way I see them train, it is much better than what I saw last year or years before. They have more swimmers and I think that’s going to help a lot.”
Key swimmers for the Trojan girls are sophomores Jasmine Rao, who Henao says is “one fast swimmer,” and Laney Fenton.
“We have some good leaders. Our captains are awesome. As a team, it helps out a lot to have that,” Henao said.
Bartlesville has won the last four girls’ championships in Class 6A, but it lost some seniors from last year’s team.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what it’s going to be like for them this year. Their boys could also surprise some people too,” Henao said.
“I tell our kids that we can’t assume anything. We’ve got to train to win, and they’re surprising me with the way they’re training, so, I’m really excited to see that manifest through the season,” he added.
The Trojans and Lady Trojans conducted their first meet on Nov. 3 in the All-State Preview with at the Jenks Aquatics Center.
Henao invites the community to come watch his teams perform.
Through the remainder of 2018, Jenks has meets scheduled against Stillwater (Nov. 8), Edmond (Nov. 15), Broken Arrow (Nov. 20), Norman (Nov. 2), Union/Bartlesville (Dec. 4) and Ft. Gibson/Bixby (Dec. 11).
More meets are scheduled for January before postseason meets take place in February.