By Eamonn Kennan, SwimSwam.com
Following a coaching career of nearly 50 years within the Santa Clarita Valley, Hart High School head swimming coach Steve Neale recently announced his plans to retire after the 2019 season.
Coach Neale’s investment into Hart High School swimming is unmatched. In 1970, Hart kicked off its first season of boys swimming – the captain of the landmark team being Steve Neale himself during his senior year.
After graduating high school, Neale competed on both the varsity swim and water polo teams at California State University, Northridge. He was a three-time qualifier for the NCAA Division II Championships – his highest recorded finish being 13th place in the 100 breaststroke finals of 1974.
Upon graduating college, Neale returned to Hart High where he would serve as an assistant coach for four years. After fulfilling coaching stints at Saugus High School and Simi High School, he eventually returned back to Hart in 1984 to fill the head coaching position, which he has occupied ever since.
The Hart High swim team has a long-standing tradition of excellence within California state swimming. The girls team was the CIF Division-II State Champion in 2008, and earned runner-up state finishes in both 1995 and 2009. The boys team won state in 2002, and also boast runner-up finishes from 1998 and 1999. Hart currently competes within the Division-I section of the CIF.
One member of the Hart boys’ 1999 state runner-up team was Olympian Anthony Ervin, who still owns the CIF Division-II records in both the 50 free (20.21) and 100 free (44.11) from that same year.
Ervin was coached by Neale throughout his four years of swimming for the Hart High School swim team. In an interview with SCV News, Ervin attributes much of his long-term commitment to the sport of swimming to Coach Neale, which at the time he admittedly struggled with.
“High school had a new life because of Coach Steve Neale,” said Ervin. “If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have made it to college swimming at all. I revere and respect that man because he made swimming fun and enjoyable for me.”
Ervin would go on to have an incredibly successful collegiate career at Cal Berkley, where he would cap off his career as a 27-time NCAA All-American, which included three individual national titles in the 100 free, and one in the 50 free. Throughout his professional career, he has become a three-time Olympian and has won three Olympic gold medals.
Coach Neale leaves a legacy of passionate commitment to coaching and developing young athletes, as well as a tremendous level of investment into Santa Clarita Valley and Hart High School swimming.
This article originally appeared on SwimSwam.com. Republished with permission.