Honoring the memory of a beloved Albuquerque swim coach

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – She coached for more than 20 years, touching the lives of hundreds of people in Albuquerque, before a battle with breast cancer took her life.

Now, family, friends and former swimmers are pushing to honor her memory by re-naming the Sandia High School pool after the longtime coach who left a lasting impression.

“When she and I would come in the mornings, we would swim in lane four,” said Ashley Burns.

Burns said she grew up at the Sandia pool.

“I think I probably spent more time here with her than in our actual house,” Burns said.

Her mother, Betsy Patterson, coached the high school swim team and a local club team for a combined 24 years, not to mention the time she spent teaching kids how to swim in her backyard before her family opened the Fish Factory Swim School.

“It didn’t matter how old you were. It didn’t matter what your skillset was,” said Christopher Baker.

Baker swam for Patterson in high school, later coached alongside her as an assistant and then took over as head coach two years ago.

“I know I wouldn’t be here doing this if it weren’t for her. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for her,” Baker said.

Despite her breast cancer diagnosis, Patterson’s death in 2014 at the age of 53 came as a bit of a surprise.

Just months earlier, Burns said her mom was coaching and racing against UFC fighters in the pool.

“You see these guys who are the picture of health, getting whooped by a 53-year-old woman with pretty advanced cancer,” Burns said.

In memory of that strength that pushed others, there’s a push to re-name the pool after Betsy Patterson.

“We’re going to keep her memory going,” Baker said.

Former Board of Education Member Paula Maes is helping organize the effort. She said the pool is actually owned by the city, so they will be going to the school board and the city to get support for the name change.

They’re hoping to get it all approved by the end of next month.

“I want people to remember her like I remember her and that’s here,” Burns said, referring to the pool.

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