Swim Coach Tom Burek Dies of COVID-19
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College swim coach Tom Burek died Saturday, Dec. 12, of complications of COVID-19. He was 62.
Burek, of Lake Bracken, Illinois, was the second-longest serving swim coach in Monmouth history. Before he was named the program’s head coach and the College’s director of aquatics in 2013, Burek spent two seasons as its assistant coach.
“Everyone in the Monmouth College family is broken-hearted at the passing of our good friend and colleague Tom Burek,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “Tom’s work as a swim coach, both at the college and in the community, touched so many lives in such a positive way. Tom always sought to lift others up. A profoundly good person has left us far too soon.”
During Burek’s tenure, members of Monmouth’s men’s and women’s swim teams won 12 individual Midwest Conference titles and four times qualified for the NCAA Division III swimming and diving championships.
Monmouth swimmers earned 57 Midwest Conference academic all-conference awards under Burek, and three times his teams won College Swimming Coaches Association of America National Academic Team Awards. Rewriting the Monmouth record books became a habit for Burek’s teams, which currently hold 37 men’s and women’s records.
“He cared for each and every swimmer as if they were his own. His laugh and smile were contagious and always turned frowns quickly to smiles. You always knew where Coach was on a pool deck full of swimmers, because you could spot his bright yellow Crocs. Better yet, you could hear him say his well-known ‘goggle up!’ from miles away.”
– Erin Lafary ’15, assistant swim coach
Monmouth assistant swim coach Erin Lafary ’15, who swam for Burek as a Monmouth student, said her former coach had a profound impact on those he worked with and “will forever leave his legacy with the Monmouth swimming program.”
“Coach Burek had a huge heart for all of his swimmers,” said Lafary. “He cared for each and every swimmer as if they were his own. His laugh and smile were contagious and always turned frowns quickly to smiles. You always knew where Coach was on a pool deck full of swimmers, because you could spot his bright yellow Crocs. Better yet, you could hear him say his well-known ‘goggle up!’ from miles away.”
A retired master sergeant, Burek served the Illinois State Police for 23 years. He also coached several swim clubs in the region and had assisted other college swim programs.
Listen Up …
A tribute to Tom Burek, with Erin Lafary ’15, Erica Marino ’13, Tony Marino ’14 and Becca Waxberg ’23.
Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. CT on Thursday, Dec. 17, at Watson Thomas Funeral Home in Galesburg, Illinois. Masks are required and social distancing and limited occupancy will be in place. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Galesburg. Read Burek’s obituary here.