For Susan Stone, it has never been about being ruler of a program, the center of attention or the reason for others’ success.
No, she said, “it has always been about the swimmers.”
And as she officially steps away from the pool as head coach of Mullen boys and girls swimming, she’ll take with her a sense of accomplishment as well as fulfillment.
“I have kind of done everything,” Stone said.
A summer club coach more than three decades ago, Stone said she never really envisioned herself as a longtime fixture such as Cherry Creek’s Eric Craven or Smoky Hill’s Scott Cohen (also a former Mustangs coach), but her status steadily climbed while heading both programs for the Mustangs.
And Stone did it without a pool on campus or hosting a meet. Before the pandemic, the Mustangs utilized a nearby recreation center for practice or the pool at Abraham Lincoln High School. And during the time of the coronavirus (COVID-19), they had to scramble to just be able to travel to Smoky Hill for girls practice.
“It was difficult,” Stone said.
Stone stepped away from the Mustangs boys prior to this new Season D for 2021 – that opens competition on Monday, May 3 -- after five seasons as head coach and one as an assistant. Mullen was fourth in Class 4A two seasons ago (there was no season in 2020).
With just eight swimmers, the Mustangs placed in 10-of-12 events. And Stone was named coach of the year.
The Mustangs also were third in 2018 and all of it came with lower participation numbers.
As for leading the girls, Stone said she went back-and-forth before confiding in them.
“I told the girls that I was leaving,” Stone said. “It’s time for me to move on. I loved all the kids I coached and loved all the families I dealt with, and really appreciated all of their support.”
Stone’s appreciation equaled results – Mullen was second in the new Season B in 4A despite being quarantined the first week, having just about as many practices as meets, advancing only seven swimmers to the state meet and having practices 25 miles away from school at night.
But it was worth it, Stone said, as “it was about these girls and having some normalcy in their lives.”
In addition, Mullen was third as a team the previous season, fourth in 2018-19 and sixth in 2017-18. Stone also won coach of the year, oversaw the 200-yard freestyle relay that won three titles in succession, and set state and All-America marks. Her individuals and relays also set several school marks.
When she took over the program, it had been scoreless at the state meet.
“Probably what I’m most proud of,” Stone said, “is how I built the program back up to one of the top teams in the state for boys and girls.”
Said Mustangs athletic director Damian Brown: “We’re going to miss her. She built an amazing swim program and when she got here it was down and she lifted it to new heights. She did a great job with both teams.”
Stone's assistant, Jess Sanford, will lead the boys. Mullen;s girls coach is to be announced.