Don Waybright 2

Centennial girls’ diving coach Don Waybright, center, poses for a photo with Chargers juniors Emme Pianfetti, left, and Hannah Hong at Unit 4 Pool in Champaign. Waybright helped the girls to state berths in his 46th year coaching.

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Why he’s Coach of the Year

The longtime local diving guru helped a pair of Centennial juniors to impressive campaigns. Hannah Hong blitzed the competition both locally and state-wide, winning the sectional championship with Illinois’ second-best score and ultimately placing seventh at state. Emme Pianfetti, meanwhile, earned her first state berth via a runner-up sectional showing.

Season highlights

“Well, with Hannah there was a bunch of them. She broke, I think it was, 13 or 14 records throughout the season, so that’s pretty amazing. I never dreamed that would happen all in one season. Normally my records have been set by my different girls down through the years, like maybe one or two at a time, but not 13 or 14 at a time. And, of course, we wanted Emme to qualify (for state). We thought she should’ve qualified last year, but she didn’t. And so this year she did, middle of the pack. And she also made the finals of the great, big Evanston meet, so I was really happy about that for Emme. ... I’m going to look forward to my last year coaching period (after 47 years next season), and hopefully we’ll go out with two of them and go out with a bang and we’ll be happy.”

A few of my favorites

My favorite food is shrimp pasta. ... My first car was 1965 charger-blue Mustang. ... My dream vacation destination is Destin, Fla. (My wife and I have) gone there many times. We like it there. ... My favorite sporting event I’ve attended live is the Cincinnati pro tennis tournament. I got to see people like Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe. I’ve been there several different times. I went there and saw Roger Federer. That was a pretty good highlight for me. ... My favorite professional sports team is the Indianapolis Colts. ... My favorite band is The 5th Dimension. ... Three items on my bucket list are to go parasailing, get to Wimbledon if I could and possibly skydive once more.

What I enjoy most about coaching

“The progress that the kids make. In diving, that’s very apparent. ... One day you can’t do something, another day you can. You know you’ve progressed. When kids get new tricks, they just light up, and I think I like the day-to-day coaching more than the competition or anything else.”

Honor Roll: Past News-Gazette All-Area girls’ swimming and diving Coaches of the Year


2019 Don Waybright Centennial

2018 Courtney Lehmann Centennial

2017 Courtney Lehmann Centennial

2016 Jason Maddux Centennial

2015 Jason Maddux Centennial

2014 Dave Young Uni High

2013 Howard Schein Uni High

2012 Will Barker Champaign Central

2011 Will Barker Champaign Central

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).