116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Chris Cruise never craved the spotlight.
He always made sure focus was on his swimmers and he had a plethora of them who thrived under his leadership during his 23-year coaching career at Cedar Rapids Washington.
"Chris was a guy who would never toot his own horn," said longtime Washington volunteer assistant coach Chris Tyler.
On Monday night, Cruise announced his retirement as the Warriors boys’ swim coach.
Cruise's decision puts to close a career that included a state title in 2008 and five runner-up finishes. It also included the continuation of an unfathomable streak of 53 consecutive district championships, which ended in 2017.
Cruise, who will remain at Washington as assistant activities director and a half-time mathematics instructor, said the decision to give up coaching came down to simple logistics.
"My new role as assistant activities director means that I am at other athletic events in the evenings and on weekends," he said. "That makes it difficult to continue to coach swimming."
Washington's boys’ swim program is the most decorated in Iowa history with 27 state team championships and numerous individual and relay state titlists. In the past 65 years, the Warriors have had just three coaches: Hal Krizan (1956-73), Jim Voss (1973-98) and Cruise, who took over when Voss retired.
Cruise won a pair of individual state titles and was on two state-winning relays as a swimmer and was a member of Voss' state title teams in 1987, ’88 and ’89.
His goal from the start was to continue the tradition started by Krizan in 1956.
"Hal and Jim were both incredible coaches who had unmatched success in terms of their coaching record and their impact on the lives of their swimmers," Cruise said. "I hope that I was able to have that type of impact on the swimmers that I worked with, much like the impact that Coach Voss had on me."
Randy Ironside swam on Cruise's first few teams, graduating in 2001. He then joined Cruise's staff following graduation and has been with him ever since.
"Chris was a great coach during my three years swimming for him," Ironside said. "Swimming has changed significantly as a sport over the past 30 years and he did an amazing job of adapting his views to stay successful. It was his leadership and mentorship that made me want to pursue coaching and his guidance over the past 20 years as his assistant has been invaluable."
Cameron Kelley, now swimming collegiately at Minnesota, said Cruise challenged his swimmers, pushing them to reach greater heights.
"He pushed hard on all his swimmers but could reel back when he needed to," said Kelley, a two-time state champ for the Warriors in 2016. "His workouts were brutal but you knew if you trusted him, he’d help you do what you were trying to accomplish.
“Coach Cruise helped me to understand that talent isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to sports."
Cruise said the memories of his national and state titles as a swimmer and his 2008 state title as a coach are special, but said the thing he will remember most was getting to coach his sons Tyler and Conner, the latter finishing his career at last February's state meet.
"Not many people have that opportunity and those will be my best memories for sure,“ he said. "I will miss (coaching) and I will miss working with the kids in that capacity, but I am excited to be able to continue working with kids in many different sports."