BRISTOL - The Bristol community is filled with heavy hearts as the holiday season comes to a close, as standout local athlete and swim coach Meegan Martin passed away Thursday morning.
A wife and mother of three, Martin spent the past 18 years as the head coach of the girls swim team at St. Paul and as the founder and coach of the Bristol Splash team.
“She never put herself first,” her husband Jim Martin said. “It was about getting everybody else in the forefront. She lived her life through her kids, not only our kids but the thousands she coached.”
Martin was a native of Bristol who quickly gained recognition for her swimming as a student at Bristol Central, where she earned all-conference, All-State and All-American honors while setting many individual records from 1979 to 1981.
She was a USS swimmer in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley and won a gold medal and set a record at the 1980 Junior Olympics in the 100-meter breaststroke.
She qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1980 and 1984.
“She never hesitated to do anything that was asked or needed, she was supportive and involved,” St. Paul athletic director Dave Dennehy said. “I consider our girls swim program was her swim program. It’s certainly a tough loss and an irreplaceable person and coach and that’s what stands out to me the most. Losing her and the kind of person she was, she was one of the many foundations of the St. Paul athletic program and school community.”
Martin swam in college at both the University of Miami and Texas A&M. She won a conference championship with Miami in 1982 and set school records in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes and 200-yard individual medley.
She returned to her hometown and became the head swim coach at Bristol Eastern and started the Bristol Splash team at the Bristol Parks and Recreation department.
“She wanted people to be humble, but don’t be afraid to take chances,” Jim Martin said. “Go after everything you want.”
Martin passed down her swimming skills to her children James, Faith and Lily, who all swam at St. Paul and received All-State honors. They all swam in college and James and Faith earned opportunities to compete at the Olympic trials.
“She took that skill set and the passion and knowledge for her sport and passed it on to her children and all of those kids at St. Paul and the other swimming programs that she’s been a part of,” Dennehy said.
As a coach, there was no one better who cared as much.
“She was everything you could ever hope for in a coach,” Dennehy said. “She had all the characteristics right down the line. She was caring and supportive of our kids, obviously passionate about the sport she loved, inspiration to her swimmers. I don’t know that you could draw up a better definition of a coach than what she brought to the table.”
Dennehy added that he also admired “her ability to get her student athletes to achieve things they didn’t think they could, whether it was helping those swimmers that wanted to swim in college or kids who were brand new to swimming.”