|The Wizard of Klaas
Swim Hall of Fame honors a poolside legend.
Klaas Schenk’s swim legacy is deep—but don’t expect to hear about it from him.
If you’ve spent any time around competitive swimming in the Northwest, you’ll quickly discover the depth of Klaas’ coaching influence.
“I swam for Klaas in high school and he’s still my favorite coach.” The refrain is eerily common. From former college swimmers to competitive triathletes, Klaas’ consistent positive energy was one bright spot through awkward
Not only is he positive, but he’s good too.
“People don’t realize what a legend Klaas is in the swimming world,” says Andy Pym, Bellevue Club Swim Team Senior Coach.
Klaas has coached the team to consistent top finishes in the region and seen countless swimmers go on to competitive college careers—literally up to a dozen each year. He’s worked with several swimmers who have competed in the Olympics, including Mary Wayte and Nathan O’Brien.
This past July, Klaas joined the company of Olympians and other influential coaches when he was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Swimming Hall of Fame at the Long Course Championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“When Klaas’ name was called, the entire crowd went crazy,” says Sally Reed, Bellevue Club Athletic Director. A group of Bellevue Club fans even held up large letters that spelled “We love Klaas!”
Growing up in rural Oregon in a family of Dutch immigrants, Klaas swam at Oregon State University before joining the Peace Corps and traveling to Brazil. He went on to coach swimming for the Peace Corps in both Morroco and Chile.
Marrying his wife Anita, Klaas eventually settled in Bellevue where he became the Bellevue Club’s first hire in 1979. Klaas and Anita have four children and seven grandchildren.
With classic humility, Klaas hadn’t realized that he was even nominated.
“At first, I received the e-mail and thought PNS was just telling us the list of nominees, and then later I saw my name on the list,” he says.
After decades of coaching, Klaas has a simple philosophy on the longevity of his chosen career:
“I’m happy at work, I’m happy at home—what more could you ask for?”
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