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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Before Marc Long’s Hall of Fame swimming career, there was a winding path to the University of Iowa.
Long’s journey to Iowa City started in his hometown of Cedar Falls at the University of Northern Iowa, but those weren’t his initial plans.
“I had signed to go to a Division III school, Luther College,” said Long. “My brother went to Luther to start his college career and the coach was persistent in recruiting me. Then I had the UNI coach convince me I could be a Division I swimmer.”
During Long’s freshman season at Northern Iowa his times continued to drop. At his first Midwest Independent League Championships, he qualified for the 100-yard butterfly final with one of the final two preliminary times. From the outside lane, Long swam to his first conference crown.
“I remember thinking I had been told to pace myself, so I was going to just go,” said Long. “I ended up winning the race. My dad was in the stands and it was the last big meet he saw. In a lot of ways, it was a breakout meet and I knew I had to move on.
“I was grateful to UNI, but I felt that another school would provide me with other opportunities. Iowa was the school I wanted to attend. Deep down I was always a Hawkeye. My grandpa ran track there briefly, and I was a Hawkeye at heart.”
Long transferred to the University of Iowa in 1987 and parlayed his opportunity into a National Iowa Varsity Athletics Club Hall of Fame career. He was a six-time All-American, three-time Big Ten champion, two-time All-Big Ten selection, and a U.S. National champion during his three-year career.
On Aug. 30, Long will be one of seven inductees at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. Tickets to the event, which is open to the public, can be purchased HERE (use promo code VCHOF).
“This is a great honor,” said Long, who has served as Iowa’s head swimming and diving coach since 2004. “Over the years we have had athletes who have gotten inducted and I have gotten to know them well. It was surreal to get that call for me, it’s a tremendous honor.”
Long says his move to Iowa City put him in a new realm of the swimming world. There were more resources at his disposal, he became exposed to international swimming, and became entrenched in a culture of winning.
“We wanted to win,” said Long. “In this program, you were surrounded by a lot people that are after the same things.”
The Hawkeyes were the Big Ten Championships runner-up in 1987 and finished 18th at the NCAA Championships. It was during his first conference meet where Long had a breakthrough moment in the 100 fly.
“I finished third and just missed the NCAA cut,” said Long. “I time-trialed after the session and swam a time that would have won it. I remember getting out of the water and all the people who had beat me were standing there.
“The coaches told me years later that they were talking about not taking me to that championship. It was a big step going to that meet and getting third behind the eventual NCAA champion.”
Long became Iowa’s first Big Ten 100 fly champion and All-American in 1988 and he repeated the feat in 1989. He swam the second-fastest time in Big Ten history in 1988 and was a part of the NCAA and Big Ten record 200-yard freestyle relay in 1989.
“I wanted that Big Ten record,” said Long. “David Cowell of Ohio State had it. I did get to second, just ahead of Mark Spitz. (Former Indiana and Olympic Hall of Fame coach) Doc Counsilman presented me one of my awards, which was a special thing.”
The Hawkeyes finished 13th at the NCAA Championships in 1988 before climbing into the top 10 the following season. The eighth-place finish was the highest in the modern era in school history.
“There was a lot of talent on that team, a lot of great athletes and successful people,” said Long. “I was a captain of that team and it was an amazing experience.”
Long worked outside of swimming for four years following graduation before diving back into the sport as a head club coach in Chicago. He returned to the Hawkeye State to lead the Iowa City Swim Club before joining collegiate ranks as an Iowa assistant coach. He was named the women’s head coach in 2004 and also for the men when the programs combined in 2006.
“In a lot of ways, coaching at my alma mater gives me extra respect for the program,” said Long. “I want to make sure all these athletes have the resources and tools to try to go that extra length to make sure this is a place to have the best experience of their lives, but also be pushed to be the best they can.
“Swimming and diving has changed a lot over the years, but it’s always going to be about the people. It’s about the people on the staff, the student-athletes, and making sure we use the resources to have a successful program.”