The boy, barely a teenager then, toed the edge of a platform above a St. George pool.
A command to take marks. A beep. Splashes.
Long Gutierrez was off, in the water where he felt so comfortable, and swimming faster than he ever had before. When he touched the wall after 100 meters of the butterfly, his time of 49.02 seconds was the best ever for a U.S. swimmer age 13 or 14 — a mark previously set by future Olympian Michael Phelps.
Looking back at that moment now, Gutierrez credits another competitor in the heat, a former BYU swimmer looking to get some training in, for helping him break the record.
“He was fast,” Gutierrez says. “That gave me competition.”
On the eve of the Utah swimming championships, the Brighton High senior knows there are plenty of teams looking to keep the Bengals from winning a fifth consecutive state championship. Gutierrez sees them all as motivation.
“One of the biggest things Long has going for him is just his love of racing,” Brighton coach Todd Etherington said. “He loves to get up and get after it with people, and just flat out race. That’s when he’s his happiest — when he’s challenged, when there’s someone pushing him to swim fast.”
His parents named him Longyuan, but Long seems to suit him. Long are the powerful arms that churn through the water. Long is the list of records he holds.
At the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, the Bengals’ home pool, the senior’s name dominates the orange and blue board that lists the school’s records. When he was looking at colleges last year, his mother tallied up his state records: 43 in all.
It might be easier for him to list the ones he does not hold: the 500 freestyle, the 100 breaststroke, the 200 freestyle relay.
“The 200 IM,” he adds. “But I’m going to go for that at state.”
Gutierrez was born in Mexico City, and since he first was put in the pool as a child, the water has felt like home.
“I’ve been doing it so long, it just clicks,” he said. “I start swimming and it’s as if I were walking on land.”
Gutierrez hopes to land a spot on the Mexican national team this summer. After that, he will join Olympian Missy Franklin as an incoming freshman on the University of California-Berkeley’s swim team.
“It will be nice to see what he can do when he’s challenged every single second of every practice,” Etherington said. “Not just challenged by the workouts, but challenged by everyone around him.”
But Gutierrez doesn’t want to look that far ahead quite yet.
First, he wants to go out a champion. It would be his fourth.
“I want to have this clean streak,” he said. “I want to look back and say I’m a part of that streak.”
But Gutierrez knows there’s always someone else looking for a record of their own.
The Michael Phelps mark he beat?
“Some kid broke it, like, half a year later,” he said.
State swimming and diving meet
9:30 a.m. • Girls’ diving
Noon • Boys’ diving
6 p.m. • 5A swimming
10 a.m. • 4A swimming
3 p.m. • 3A swimming
7 p.m. • 5A swimming
11 a.m. • 3A swimming
5 p.m. • 4A swimming
• Brighton High School senior
• Holds 43 state swimming records
• Bengals have won four straight state championships