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Hall of Fame: Les Cutler (Newport Harbor)

January 23, 2002

Richard Dunn

Bound and determined to return to sunny Southern California where

he was born and raised for the first 11 years of his life, Les Cutler

made good on a self-proclaimed promise after an All-American swimming

career at the University of Iowa.

"I always had fond memories of California and always said when I

graduate from Iowa I was going to come out here -- in whatever profession

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I had," said Cutler, a longtime teacher and coach who said he is in his

"late 50s," is officially retired, but you'd never know it if you

followed him around Newport-Mesa School District campuses.

"I retired last year from teaching, but the district asked me to come

back to continue the honors program (which he started six years ago at

Costa Mesa High)."

An aquatics guru, Cutler stayed close to the water once he returned to

the Southland. His father, George, was a Chrysler executive and accepted

a transfer from Whittier to Grosse Point, Mich., where Les attended high

school and became a three-time All-American swimmer.

At Iowa, Cutler was a four-time NCAA All-American swimmer, placing

second his senior year at the 1964 NCAA Championships in the 200-meter

backstroke (2:02.4).

Cutler, who later finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic trials in that

event, was introduced shortly thereafter to Bill Jewell, who taught

Cutler how to paddle a kayak around Newport Harbor and the Upper Newport

Bay.

Working hard and picking up the skills of kayaking quickly, Cutler

became a training and competitive partner with Jewell and reached the

1968 Mexico City Olympic Games in the K-4.

Cutler made the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team in the K-1 after finishing

second at the trials, but was beckoned to join three others in a boat

(along with Jewell) at the Games.

When Cutler arrived in California after college, he accepted his first

teaching and coaching job for $5,289 a year at Long Beach Jordan, where

he lasted three years.

"Then I decided to take Ed Newland's advice and take the Estancia

position (as water polo and swimming coach)," said Cutler, who coached

the Eagles from their inception (1965) to 1993, when he transferred to

Costa Mesa.

Cutler helped launch an integration program at Costa Mesa with

sophomore English and social studies students. "It's the only

(integration program) in the district," said Cutler, who teaches on a

part-time basis (two classes) at Costa Mesa, while continuing as a

lower-level aquatics coach at Newport Harbor under Bill Barnett.

Following his long coaching stint at Estancia, Cutler was asked by

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