Water runs in Hucht's veins Coach: At 80 and entering his 54th year of coaching, Calvert Hall's Reds Hucht still lives life in the fast lane.

September 24, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Reds Hucht will mark his birthday today the way he has most of the previous ones -- by ignoring it.

So what if he's 80? There is still practice to run at Calvert Hall's appropriately named Hucht Pool. So what if he's the oldest high school head coach in any sport in metropolitan Baltimore?

"Reds is the oldest coach of a high-profile swimming program in the country, as far as I know," said his chief coaching competitor, Murray Stephens of Loyola High and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "Maybe in the world. Joe King of Australia is 81, but he retired last year."

None of this is a big deal to Hucht. He has been in swimming most of his life, dating to the late 1920s when he competed in The Evening Sun meet. Even as he enters his 54th year of coaching, he has no plans to retire.

"As long as I enjoy it and I'm physically able, I'll keep on," said Hucht, who also coaches the Knights of Columbus-Orchards age-group team. "I just had a complete physical and I don't take medication. You don't get old on this job. You don't get behind the times. Working with these kids, you always have your finger on the pulse."

The years have not eroded the competitiveness of Hucht or his teams.

Calvert Hall had won, tied or finished second to Loyola for the Maryland Scholastic Association (now Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association) championship every year since 1964 until last season, when it was third behind Loyola and McDonogh. From 1991 to 1994, the Hall won four straight titles.

"Reds has been the most dominant and consistent swimming personality in Baltimore in the middle of this century," Stephens said. "He provided a bridge, the continuity, between old-time swimming and swimming today. He has maintained the focal point of sending people to national meets and motivated me and everyone else in the area to do the same."

A breaststroker, Hucht swam for Poly and then, when the school dropped the sport, Calvert Hall. He captained the 1935 Calvert Hall team and won a couple of MSA titles.

In 1936, he began his coaching career as a swimming counselor at Camp Huntingfield in Kent County. Two of his girls won titles in The Evening Sun meet that year.

Before World War II, Hucht coached Mount St. Joseph, Loyola College and Knights of Columbus age-groupers -- all at once. That ended when he enlisted in the merchant marines and served seven years, keeping in shape by swimming from ship to shore.

"The first time I did that, in the Philippines, the natives in a bar were amazed and bought me drinks," Hucht said. "I said what was so amazing about swimming two miles to shore? Then they told me the waters were shark-infested."

Returning to Baltimore in 1948, Hucht resumed coaching, and was persuaded in 1960 to coach his alma mater, Calvert Hall. The school got more than a coach. It also got a pool operator, mechanic, cabinetmaker, carpenter and dry-wall man. His workshop is under the pool.

His projects this past summer included making 11 flower boxes, four bulletin boards and 26 computer desks, laminating 45 additional desks and draining, cleaning and painting Hucht Pool -- alone, because it's easier to do it himself than to get others to meet his high standards.

"I like the challenge," he said. "I can work four hours a day or 12, and when I want, at midnight or 1 a.m. I sleep 5 1/2 hours a day. Any more is a waste of time."

Hucht conducts practice seven days a week, year round, even on Christmas if anyone wants to come. He rarely misses, showing up one time with walking pneumonia.

"Billie [his wife] drove him to the evening practice and he couldn't talk, so he told me what to do by holding up fingers -- four fingers meant four laps," said Keith Schertle, a former Calvert Hall freestyler who was then Hucht's assistant.

"He told me to run practice that night, but the next morning he was there at 7 to do it himself."

A broken hip, suffered in 1985 when he fell off a roof while installing plywood sheets at the Benfield Pines Ice Rink in Millersville, kept Hucht away from the pool only briefly.

Hucht was born at home and had his tonsils and adenoids removed on the kitchen table, and that was his first stay in the hospital. Told he'd be there five weeks, he begged to differ, prevailed on Dr. Roger Michael, whose son Mark swam for Hucht, to perform the surgery and was at poolside, on crutches, four days later.

A hospital employee told him, "Operated on Sunday, out Wednesday -- that must be a record."

"Age-group record, anyway," Hucht said, smiling.

Chagrined that Billie was driving him to the twice-daily workouts, Hucht announced that he was going to drive himself. She said he was crazy. He said, "Watch me."

She did and he did.

Pub Date: 9/24/96

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