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Lake Shore High honors beloved coach with diving invitational

Chris Ignatowski taught and coached at the school for more than 20 years. He unexpectedly died in March.

ANGOLA, N.Y. — The water’s surface. Rolling, peaceful, unbroken. Then the loud snap of a diving board, a clap as the surface is pierced, and the applause of the spectators as the scores are announced.

On Saturday, Lake Shore High School hosted a diving invitational, absent the face most would typically have expected to see poolside: Chris Ignatowski.

“He coached here for swimming for twenty years," current Lake Shore swimming and diving coach Sean Kunkel said. “Up until three years ago, and then he gave up swimming so he could follow his kids and watch their athletic abilities.”

Chris' wife Lori elaborated.

“This was his second family, so he put a lot of work into these boys year after year, enjoyed what he did,” she said.

It was a meet Chris would never have missed, but last March, Chris unexpectedly passed away. So in his honor, Kunkel organized the first Chris Ignatowski Memorial Diving Invitational, with athletes from 12 different schools competing.

“He was the first guy I met when I got hired here," Kunkel said. "He was the first guy that made sure I was comfortable in my position as a teacher as well as a coach, and he is such a key part of this community. The kids here, everyone loves him. The teachers love him. He’s always got the community on his back, and he’ll do anything for anyone in this community, anyone of these students."

Lori was on hand to hand out medals in Chris' place, but also to cheer on one of the competitors with an unmistakable name. Chris and Lori's 14-year-old son, Cameron Ignatowski, was returning to a place he had shared with his father from the age of 2.

Credit: J.T. Messinger

“Nothing’s really changed either that much. Kind of stayed the same, just how I remembered it. I know most of the people on that board," Cameron said as he pointed to the list of pool records looking down on him from the wall.

Added Kunkel, laughing: “He’s been coached there longer than I think most of our divers have."

“He always knew how to crack a joke," Cameron added, when asked for memories of his father. “All the dad jokes. All of them. Not really a specific one, but just the dad jokes in general.”

Lake Shore plans to continue the even annually in Chris’ name, teaching one of the core truths of the sport: after each plunge, resurface.

“Honored," Lori emotionally replied. "It’s what he deserves. It’s what he deserves.” 

“It was awesome," Cam said. "A great day.”

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