With Foothill League prelims over with and league finals coming up on Thursday, a Foothill League and Santa Clarita Valley era will come to an end.
Longtime Hart High School swim coach Steve Neale will be stepping down as the Indians coach after serving the school and Hart community for the past 35 years, but people would never know it as Neale swiftly walks up and down the poolside coaching and cheering on his swimmers.
“I’m in the moment because I’m in the moment with these kids,” Neale said with the usual smile that he always has. “But when I stop and take a big breath and look around and go, ‘Wow. This is a way of life that has been such a huge part of me.’ So I don’t know. I realize that for me it’s a milestone, but right now I’m so in the moment. ‘Can someone get to the block on time?’ Things like that.”
Touching the hearts of so many swimmers, Neale has made an impact unlike any other around the swim community in Santa Clarita Valley, as some of Hart’s fastest swimmers can attest to.
“Really, this whole entire season we have been wanting it to be the best season we can possibly make it,” said Hart girls swimmer Maxine Catig. “On our cars outside it says: ‘Do it for Neale’ or it will say ‘Honk for Steve Neale’ because we just want to send him off in the best way possible. And everyone is just like, ‘We can do this’ and just wanting to do the best for Neale.”
“He has been one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Hart senior Maxwell Heyborne. “What adds to that is that I’m a senior too, so this is my last year swimming and it’s his last year coaching so I’m kind of doing it for myself, but then even more so add on this amazing man that is in his last year. We all want to give him the best we can because he’s given us his best so that’s kind of been a good motivator.”
Thursday might be Neale’s last Foothill League finals, but his impact on the sports and swimmers live will be everlasting.
Finals are set to begin at 1:30 p.m at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center.