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Dunworth earns Matt Mann Award for histortic coaching career WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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The list of accomplishments swimming coach Shannon Dunworth has accumulated is staggering, which makes the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association’s recent decision to award him the Matt Mann award — the association's lifetime achievement award — only logical.

Before taking over, and continuing, a winning tradition at Farmington Hills Mercy in 2004, Dunworth, following in his father’s footsteps, spent 15 years coaching the boys and girls swim team at Dearborn where he won back-to-back state championships with the boys in 1986 and 87. He said winning the Matt Mann award had special significance because the association had awarded it to his father posthumously.

“(The award means) a lot because my dad got that award,” Dunworth said after being honored at the Oakland County swim meet two weeks ago. “After his death about 20 years ago was when he got it. If you stick around long enough, they’ve got to give you something.”

Dunworth has plenty of longevity — he’s been a force in Michigan’s swimming world since winning an individual state title in the 100 backstroke in 1974 — but he’s done much more than stick around.

Since coming to Mercy, he’s done little besides win. The Marlins have won the Catholic High School League in all but one year since 1967, and every year since Dunworth has been at the helm. Not only has Mercy been dominating the local private schools in the CHSL, but they’ve won the last 11 Oakland County swim meets.

Editor's note: Click here for a story and photo gallery from this year's Oakland County swim meet

Don’t think the Marlins success is limited to Oakland County, either, because the Marlins have won seven state titles under Dunworth and have never finished worse than second-place at the state meet under his direction.

“Swimming in this state is really top notch for the whole country swimming-wise,” Dunworth said. “Every year is getting faster, and we’re fortunate our kids are keeping up with that. Every year is a clean slate. I try not to carry anything over other than the good traditions from the past. I don’t want to think too far ahead, but I doubt we’re going to lower the bar any time soon.”

Of course, that kind of sustained excellence can only exist with plenty of talented swimmers, and Dunworth has no problem attracting them to Mercy.

“He’s amazing,” Mercy sophomore Katie Minnich, who already has an individual title in the 100 backstroke and is ranked as the top recruit in the state for the class of 2018 by, said of her coach. “He’s the reason I came to Mercy. I came here to swim, and it’s the best decision I ever made. It’s amazing just to get the chance to carry on the tradition that girls have worked so hard to build for us, and just to be able to uphold that means a lot.”

Two years after taking the head coaching job at Mercy, Dunworth became the head coach at Novi Detroit Catholic Central, which doesn’t have the kind of swimming tradition Mercy has. However, Dunworth has the Shamrocks building a new tradition, knocking on the door of perennial powerhouse Birmingham Brother Rice with second-place finishes in the CHSL in each of the last seven years.

“I think he just demands so much out of his kids,” MISCA president and Bloomfield Hills head coach Dave Zulkiewski said of the success Dunworth has had. “He has a gameplan at the beginning of the season and knows where he wants the kids to be. He can take kids of all different ability levels and get the most out of them. That just takes time and dedication and getting to know each kid. He has such a great relationship with all of his athletes.”

Currently, the Marlins are ranked third in Division 1 behind Ann Arbor Skyline and last year’s champion Saline. The Marlins will swim in the state finals in five weeks at Holland with a chance to add to the long list of accomplishments Dunworth has achieved in his career.

Last Updated: 10/22/2015 12:18:42 PM EST

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