More importantly, the time he has spent with his swimmers has been even better. It's that special time Longyear will miss the most when he ends his coaching career at Menlo-Atherton High following Saturday's Central Coast Section championships at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.
"I've been blessed to have some amazing, bright, hard-working athletes come out over the years," Longyear said Wednesday following his next-to-last practice ever. "Working with them every day and helping them improve will be the hardest thing to walk away from.
"It has been a very satisfying year. It's tempting to see what next year would be like," he added. "I'm going to miss this time of year a lot."
Longyear, who will continue teaching biology at M-A, said he'll miss the exciting endings to close meets and trying to figure out how to win the Peninsula Athletic League finals. He'll miss seeing the time drops of his swimmers and their improvement. Longyear will miss all of this for the simple reason of missing so many other things during his 24 years on the pool deck that includes as many water polo seasons.
"My brother got married a few years ago on CCS weekend and I had to miss it," Longyear said of the wedding. "My daughter's birthday is this weekend, and I'll miss her party."
Those are things you can't get back, and the 45-year-old Longyear is well aware time is not waiting on him.
"I have a son (C.J., a Gunn sophomore) who is approaching college," Longyear said. "And I have a daughter (Sarah, a fourth-grader at Fairmeadow Elementary School) who will be there some day . . . I'm just closing the door on coaching and hopefully opening the door on more family things."
Before Longyear does that, however, there's the matter of putting the finishing touches on a very successful season for the Bears. His girls' team went 10-0 in dual meets and won the PAL Bay Division championship meet, where his boys finished second.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more from our girls or guys," said Longyear, who took 54 swimmers to the finals and all but three scored. "I've put in a lot of work, but the rewards have been great."
This weekend at Stanford (trials are Friday and finals Saturday), Longyear will have 16 swimmers entered. Bellarmine is favored to win its 22nd straight CCS boys' crown while defending champion Palo Alto and five-time champion Mitty are expected to battle for the girls' title.
Longyear would love to see his girls move up from last season's fifth-place finish, see his 200 medley relay team defend its crown, see senior Heidi Kucera win a second straight 100 breast title, and see senior Kelly Eaton battle for honors in the 100 back after taking third last season in a school-record 56.96.
"It won't be the last meet I'll be at," admitted Longyear, who'll be part spectator and part statistician next season. "But this is it for coaching. Hopefully, the swims will be successful (this weekend). That'll be a good way to go out."
Longyear already is looking forward to taking Sarah out for a birthday dinner on Saturday night. Sunday marks the birthday of his wife, Sally, in addition to being Mother's Day. Reminiscing about the past 24 years is not on the schedule this weekend, however.
That's for another day, another time.
The Palo Alto boys probably won't throw a scare into heavily favored Bellarmine, but the Vikings do have enough depth to make a run at second place. In addition to the 200 free and 400 free relays, Paly will challenge the Bells in the 200 free with Edward Morrison (1:41.67) going against Taylor Smith (1:41.22) in a race where the top three (including Sacred Heart Prep's Alex Navarro) all could dip under 1:40.00.
Smith and Navarro will battle for honors in the 500 free with Paly freshman Mark Higgins pushing for third. Higgins also could finish among the top three in the 200 IM, a race where SHP junior Austin Stahley (1:54.62) is the heavy favorite.
Stahley, Navarro, Kameron Flores-Maxfield and Randy Ang lead the Gators, who finished third last season and are vastly improved with the addition of Stahley — the CCS leader in both the 200 IM and 100 breast.
Stahley also is a key member on both the 200 medley and 400 free relay teams, the latter of which shocked Bellarmine with a 3:11.49 to win the WCAL finals last weekend.
Palo Alto's depth should be enough to finish ahead of SHP, but the Vikings need to get most of their top swimmers like Robbie Nakamura, Peter LO, Eric Vallone and Michael Fortune into the finals to offset the Gators' big first-place points.
Gunn finished tied for fifth last season, but lost eight key swimmers. If the Titans can finish among the top 10, it would be a solid accomplishment. Gunn should score well in all three relays along with Mark Prior in the 200 free and 100 fly and Matt Prior in the 100 back and 200 IM.
The Palo Alto girls, meanwhile, need to get some big diving points out of Michela Fossati, Jenny Reese and Nicole Przybyla for the Vikings to have a chance to hold off Mitty again. Fossati is the odds-on-favorite to win, but will be challenged by Michelle Morikawa of St. Francis, Courtney Rudolph of Monta Vista and Alyssa Robinson of Menlo.
Only 20 points separated Palo Alto and Mitty last season, and the Monarchs have two CCS-leading relays teams (victories count 40 points) and one squad ranked No. 2.
The Vikings rank No. 2 in the 200 free relay and No. 3 in the 400 free, plus have CCS 50 free leader Liv Jensen, who's also among the top three in the 100 free.
Veterans Phoebe Champion, Becky Wenzlau and Tanya Wilcox all need to make finals in their respective events for the Vikings to have a shot at repeating.
The Gunn and Menlo girls will be looking for top-10 finishes. The Titans' Casey Barnes-Waychus ranks No. 3 in the 500 free heading into the prelims. Menlo freshman Haley Read should challenge for a top-five finish in the 100 breaststroke.
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