Long closing out storied career

Mace Long is one busy young man. If you don’t believe it, then just ask him – that is if you can get him to slow down.

A senior standout swimmer at Hollidaysburg Area High School, Long is competing at his fourth straight PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships starting today at Bucknell University.

Not only is he competing in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke event, but he is teaming with his brother, Colter, and the likes of Greg Dinges, Alex and Max Gehringer in both the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

But the National Honor Society and marching band member is not worried about being tired.

“I think we are in pretty good shape,” Mace said. “I think we will perform well.”

And that’s a small dose of what Mace Long can be like. When asked about his goals for the two-day jaunt in Lewisburg, he talks about the relay teams before he talks about himself.

“The first thing that is different for me [this time] is that we actually have a team going, and I want to help get them into the finals,” he said.

Deb Solomon, who has been the coach at Hollidaysburg the past 18 years, knows what it is like for Mace to be by himself at a state meet – like last year when he was one of just two Blair County swimmers (the other was Central’s Taylor Flaugh) to advance.

“He is just so excited to have a team,” she said. “It’s been a long time for us, and I know we have never had two boys relays teams go to states for me. I can remember him going [to states] with Sarah Kaneshiki and Sarah Robbins, and Mace was kind of shy, and they would try to get him out of his shell. Now he is a lot more outgoing and a lot more responsible.”

His scholastic resume reads like a who’s-who of what good kids should be doing these days with their free time. His projects include:

n Thanksgiving Altoona Food Bank collection.

n Humane Society.

n Presbyterian Home volunteer.

n Afterschool program.

n Hollidaysburg Community Gardens.

There is also jazz band, orchestra and French Club, and believe it or not, he enjoys movies like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy as well as what he calls “intriguing” books such as “The Three Muskateers” and “The Great Gatsby.”

So where, and when, does he find the time to do all that with swimming – and lifting – to get ready for swimming?

“It hasn’t been quite as stressful as it was before,” Mace said of his schedule. “I always try to find something pretty cool or interesting to do. I always find a balance between band and swimming.”

Even on the weekends, Mace and his brother are usually swimming. He’s been training for this year since last year ended.

“Having Mace as the anchor [on the 200 freestyle relay] is really calming,” Solomon said. “That is a good role for him because it showcases him as a leader.”

Colter’s presence has been felt, too.

“It is someone who really knows Mace, who knows how hard he works, not that the other kids don’t work hard because they do, but at the same time, it is important to have someone who really knows you,” Solomon said. “Swimming is a long sport. It takes a long time to be good. It takes a lot of dedication. He’s there from 5:30 in the morning until 6 at night a lot of times.”

Long knows what it is like to be the new guy on the team, and this year he found out what it was like to be a leader, too.

“There was this 10th grader who was doing the backstroke and I was helping him with his starts and his turns,” Mace said.

He also knows how the state experience has changed from his first time as a freshman.

“I remember the first time, it was all pretty new to me in the sense that I was looking around at all of these swimmers and thinking about what the competition would be like,” he said. “I knew there was pressure because there were some really fast swimmers there like David Nolan. But now I am not nervous. In fact, I am really excited.”

Upon graduation in June, Long will head off to college in the fall and will swim at IUP as well as be part of the Cook Honors College.

“I really like the coach [Chris Villa.] He is a pretty amazing guy,” Long said, pointing out that the honors program was a big selling point.

Solomon, who can remember watching Mace swim as a child with the Hollidaysburg YMCA program, has enjoyed Long’s four years.

“He has always been fast, that is what I first remember about him,” she said. “Then watching him as a freshman, and seeing him improve and mature over the years, it’s just been a really neat experience.”