St. Thomas Academy (Minn.) swimming coach suspended, fined for behavior during practices

Photo: Jim Krajewski/Reno Gazette Journal

A longtime swimming coach at a Minnesota school now faces a three-meet suspension and a ban from postseason action following his controversial behavior at the 2019 Minnesota State High School League state swimming meet.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, St. Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minn.) swimming coach John Barnes was handed a three-meet suspension by St. Thomas administrators, and the MSHSL followed by suspending the coach from the 2020 postseason as well.

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The penalties follow Barnes’ self-imposed ban from the penultimate day of the 2019 MSHSL state swimming meet. At that meet, Barnes’ St. Thomas Academy squad finished fourth, a respectable finish but disappointing for Barnes’ standards.

The legendary coach has led St. Thomas to 15 Class 1A state titles.

For Barnes, who will continue in his role as the school’s head swimming coach, being able to lead the team is a primary positive result, even if some are disappointed the school hasn’t supported him as much as they would like.

“A good PR strategy is not to remain silent and let the public speculate the worst about something that wasn’t remotely as bad as many people think,” Mark Zobel, whose three sons played football under Barnes at St. Thomas, told the Star-Tribune. “That seems like a bad strategy and one that certainly isn’t fair to John Barnes, who probably isn’t able to speak for himself.”

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