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Long Beach Poly Swimming

FEATURE: Colin Geer Lit Up Long Beach Poly With Historic Swims

The562’s coverage of water polo & swimming is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management. 

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.

Colin Geer made the lights come on.

He had just swum a come-from-behind anchor leg to help win the 200 freestyle relay at the Moore League boys’ swim finals at LBCC, keeping his Long Beach Poly team in the lead in their hunt to win their first-ever Moore League title, and snap Wilson’s state-record 49-year title streak. He celebrated as he did all his other wins that chilly Spring evening, pointing at the crowd and then slapping the water. As his hands hit the surface of the pool, the lights in LBCC’s new pool popped on, illuminating the water in a moment that felt like Hollywood magic.

Wilson’s star junior swimmer, Sammie Hamilton, is the Moore League’s other elite swimmer with a national profile. The night before she’d led her Bruins to a third-consecutive league title, and she was at the boys’ finals to cheer on her friends and teammates. When she saw the lights come on after Geer’s dramatic moment, Hamilton laughed and rolled her eyes good-naturedly. 

“That’s such a Colin Geer moment,” she said.

Geer has signed a scholarship with Michigan and will be taking those moments to Ann Arbor with him shortly, but before he goes he delivered a historic senior year for Poly, where the usual campus chatter about football and track turned to aquatics this Spring. Geer not only led Poly to the historic league title, he also won individual CIF-SS and CIF State titles in the 200 IM. He’s the first Long Beach swimmer in the modern era to win a State title, and he set a new CIF-SS Division 1 record in the event as well.

In the Blocks

Geer started swimming at three years old, but he wasn’t a fan at first.

“I cried at swim lessons, I would beg the teacher, I would lie to the teacher to get out of swimming,” he said.

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His childhood coach, Coach Jackie, started him swimming in her backyard, and told him at a young age she saw something with his butterfly motion that was promising. He started swimming competitively at seven years old and then former Poly coach Eddie Kim began coaching him when he was 10 years old. 

Geer hit the next level over the last couple of years swimming at Golden West Swim Club in Huntington Beach, and began fully dedicating himself to his craft. That’s a difficult thing for elite swimmers, who have to endure a training schedule that many outside the sport would consider torturous.

Geer trains at Golden West three hours every night during the week, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., then goes home and gets through his homework in order to be up and at school for morning practice with the Poly team. Then school all day, back to Golden West, and rinse/repeat throughout the week with three hours of training Saturday mornings, too.

“It’s constant, it’s busy, but it’s worth it,” he said.    

Coaches and teammates alike have praised Geer’s supreme confidence this year—he said at Moore League finals that’s a direct product of his hours spent training.

“For me personally, that confidence comes from the work I put in, I know that I work harder than anyone here, and that’s the difference,” he said. “The difference isn’t that I’ve been doing it for longer or that some of these kids play water polo. I just know when I step in the water that I work harder than anyone next to me. And that’s how I know I can win.”

Swimming Hard

For all the confidence and all the talent, last year’s Moore League Finals ended the same way it has for Poly for the last 49 years: with heartbreak and frustration. The Jackrabbits had a chance to break Wilson’s streak in 2022, after having handed them just their second dual meet loss over that run. 

But at league finals, Wilson PRed in almost every event, with heroic swims from All-American Hank Rivers and the rest of the Bruins. Poly was favored to win the title, but a relay DQ significantly hurt their chances going into the Finals meet.

The pain of last year’s loss fueled this year’s win. Asked when he and his teammates started thinking about this year’s Finals meet, Geer laughed.

“Literally the second we lost last year,” he said. “Literally, on the pool deck the moment the meet was over. We felt it. It hurt. It stung.”

The Poly team ended up filling up a handful of booths at the In-N-Out by the Traffic Circle, eating their emotions and promising each other over milkshakes and cheeseburgers that next year would be different.

“We’re all saying this can’t happen again next year, we’ve got to do everything it takes,” he said. “Everyone had this goal in mind literally from that night, that they’d do whatever it takes to win.”

Reaching For History

You could pick any one of a number of moments to say that this year’s Poly title run began, but no doubt the most important of them was the day Geer decided to enroll at Poly, and not Wilson, where the best swimmers in Long Beach have attended school for decades.

Ironically, Geer said that swimming itself wasn’t the biggest part of that decision—he opted for Poly because of its nationally-recognized PACE magnet program.

“That drew me in more than anything because academics comes first, and the rigor there,” he said. “I did a shadow day and loved the environment. The teachers are so engaging. And then also, Wilson has an amazing water polo tradition and I never played water polo. So coming and swimming at Poly felt right.”

Poly boys’ swim coach Ish Pluton said that Geer has been the consummate leader, helping to prepare every athlete on the team for the pressure that would come with the bright lights of history. 

“He’s been the greatest leader you could ever ask for in a high school athlete,” he said. Pluton recalled an early meet this season where Geer went into the water on a relay trailing by three body lengths, caught his opponent and won the race for Poly with an elite split time. Pluton was hyped as Geer came out of the pool.

“I said ‘Dude that was a 20 point!’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s the fastest I’ve ever gone in a Speedo. That was a really good experience because you never know with league finals, it’s gonna be close, I’ll have to remain calm under pressure and win the race.’ He said that to me right after the race. And I just go, ‘As you were, Colin.’”

The hardest time Geer had remaining calm this year was actually out of the pool, as the days were ticking down to the league finals.

“This week has been rough, I’m just sitting in class and I’m just thinking, ‘Friday, why can’t it just be Friday?’ I told my parents every day, I just want it to be Friday night. You’re nervous all week but finally the moment comes.”

Geer took advantage of that moment, both at league finals and with his historic postseason as well.

“Everyone on our team went crazy and put us in position, and I tried to do my part,” said Geer. “It just all came together for our team. It was amazing.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.