_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK

Socialize

Johnson Retires After Long Run as Cerritos Aquatic Club Coach

July 7, 2023

By Loren Kopff

All good things must come to an end, and after a lengthy run of nearly 50 years with the Cerritos Aquatic Club, longtime coach Mark Johnson has retired. Johnson, who will turn 74 years old later this month, was the aquatics coach for Cerritos High in 1984 and later at Whitney High, among other accomplishments.

Johnson said he finally decided at the end of last year and beginning of this year that he was going to retire this summer. He said he had always hoped to be able to be free when, as he put it, it is ‘lovely here in Southern California’, which is from July to October, and felt like it was time, especially for the Cerritos Aquatic Club. Johnson also cited that there has been some coaching changes.

“It’s been a long, long haul and I can feel the age a little bit,” said Johnson. “I had cataract surgery, my hearing is not great and just other medical…I had some teeth pulled and stuff. Eyesight kind of gave me a clue…and I just felt like it was a good time.”

Johnson said the club went through a ‘very good selection process’ of interviewing his replacement, which will be Vince Carmosino. Johnson added that the retirement is bittersweet and that the emotions have welled up a couple of times and admitted his retirement hasn’t hit yet. There was a big retirement party last Saturday at Cerritos Park East in which there was a large contingent of past and present athletes, families, coaches and officials. Johnson called the event ‘overwhelming’.

“I been overwhelmed with all the coaching throughout the years and the little stuff that just doesn’t get done,” said Johnson. “But it’s been a good run. The party was outrageous; there was a huge number of people [with] swimmers who now have kids. It was just wonderful.

“The overwhelming feeling is just…the familiness of it is really what stands out, which I feel the most proud of, I guess, and the overall emotions connected with that,” he later said. “Not necessarily any particular super performance, because there have been lots of them. But the feeling of togetherness and working together for a common goal.”

Johnson began with the Cerritos Aquatic Club in 1975 and was a Junior Olympic swimming champion with the Lakewood Aquatic Club under coaching legend Jim Montrella. Johnson attended Warren High where he was a CIF-Southern Section swimming champion. Post-high school, Johnson was an All-American water polo player and captain of the Yale University swimming and water polo teams.

Johnson has coached many Junior Olympic finalists, high school league and CIF-SS champions at both Cerritos and Whitney over the years. He also runs a popular bodysurfing contest every summer at Huntington Beach, which he still intends to keep even though he’s retired from the high school and club scene.

“Bodysurfing is really fun because…it’s so much fun to go fast and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can go really fast,” said Johnson. “I’m still trying to get in the water. Now I’ll have some more time to actually swim. I’ve been out of shape because of Covid and I broke a couple of ribs a couple of years back.”

Several of his swimmers and water polo athletes have competed at the university level and one of the club’s water polo players went on to play for the United States Olympic team, which won several medals.

Johnson said he would like to credit much of the area’s success to the ‘excellent’ assistant coaches the Cerritos Aquatic Club has had and the support of the families and schools in Cerritos. He is most proud of all the swimmers who have learned to love swimming, water polo and bodysurfing for the competition, friendships and life-long healthy exercise they offer.

“What I also would like to do is teach swimming,” he continued. “I’ve been telling the kids over and over, thousands of times how to swim and get into college, find a roommate or friend that doesn’t know how to [swim], and help them. I would really like to teach adults that have been afraid of swimming or had a bad experience or are afraid to get near the water. That’s probably in the future. I hope it is.”

Now that he has more time on his hand, Johnson admitted he is ready to learn some more Spanish and get much better at it along with reading a lot more and trying to keep the same discipline as far as going to bed early and eating extremely well and taking care of himself and try to stay healthy.

“It’s been an incredibly rewarding career,” he said.