John Rork is trying to keep things simple and consistent heading into Friday's preliminary races at the 5A state boys' swimming and diving championships at Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.
That hasn't been easy.
After 25 years at Fountain-Fort Carson as a physical education teacher and girls' and boys' swimming coach, Rork is retiring following the end of the school year. He'll watch his team compete one last time this weekend.
"We're trying not to break from our routine too much," Rork said. "But we had our awards banquet earlier this week, and there were a lot of tears there. I've had a good run. It's just time to move on and try something else for a while."
Rork was working on his teaching certificate at Metro State when he arrived in Colorado Springs after his wife, Galyn, was hired by a small law firm in late 1987.
He soon became a substitute teacher at Palmer for Kent Christy, then a teacher and girls' coach at the downtown Colorado Springs high school.
This weekend, Christy will serve as a meet referee at state and will witness Rork's final moments as a high school coach.
"I'm looking forward to being there for John's last state meet," Christy said. "It'll be fun, and I'm sure we'll reminisce a bit. John is a great guy and developed a nice program at Fountain-Fort Carson. He was always in it for the right reasons. He really likes being around the kids and building those relationships."
Rork got his first big break in 1990 when District 8 opened its aquatics center and he served as assistant pool manager under Mike Doane. Two years later, things fell into place when Doane left and a teaching position opened up at Fountain-Fort Carson.
"I was fortunate enough to be able to fall into that position," Rork said. "Mike was a key mentor of mine, and his passion for swimming and coaching rubbed off on me. I always felt that learning how to swim was a valuable life lesson, and I've been blessed with a lot of great kids coming through the high school."
In 2001, Rork started a boys' swimming program from scratch at F-FC, which gradually has become a presence at the state level. Under his direction, the Trojans will have one swimmer, two divers and two relay teams in this weekend's state meet.
"I think he always did what's best to develop the program down there, and he's done a fabulous job over the years," said Cheyenne Mountain coach Kate Doane, Mike's wife. "His program is not winning the state meet, but they go out and give their all, which is a reflection of him. That's what the state meet is all about, doing the best you can."
As for what's next, Rork hasn't decided yet. He knows swimming might still be in his future in some capacity.
"I might help out here and there as a volunteer with the kids, but my head coaching days are done," said Rork, whose children Kelsey and Jack have both graduated. "It's just time to go. My family has sacrificed a lot, and it's time for me to be there for them."