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Frightened swimmers reportedly asked West Fargo coach to stop using weights

WEST FARGO — The West Fargo School District released its report on Thursday, Sept. 20, highlighting its reasons for dismissing varsity girls swimming and diving coach Ronald Hehn.

Hehn, a first-year coach, was dismissed on Sept. 14 for "inappropriate coaching practices." The firing came two days after a video was posted on Facebook by Hehn of a Packer student manager swimming 25 yards with a series of weights around his waist.

It was part of a training method Hehn said he learned from college coach Sam Freas, a former president of the College Swim Coaches Association.

When interviewed, the manager told school officials he volunteered to do the weighted swim because he wanted to try an exercise practiced by the girls that day.

Afterwards, West Fargo Activities Director Jay DeCann received an email from an unidentified coach and administrator in Pennsylvania who feared the method "would be deemed criminal if it were used as part of our student training."

Officials then interviewed four team members who had attempted the technique, saying the following themes emerged:

• Equipment used was not issued by the school.

• When the girls asked to stop, the coach continued the technique.

• There was no instruction or rationale provided to the swimmer.

• Lifeguards stopped the practice because it appeared dangerous.

• Girls were afraid during several tasks.

On Thursday, Hehn said it was "completely inaccurate" that lifeguards had stopped practice. He did not respond to the other allegations in the report.

The incident was not the first controversy Hehn created on social media. Early in September, he made numerous critical Facebook posts regarding the meet management of an Aug. 30 home dual, behavior Hulbert Aquatic Center Director Chad Day called "highly inappropriate."

Hehn said he plans to challenge the school's decision and that he's working with USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, to pen an official response to his dismissal and use of the weighted techniques.

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