Cesar Altamirano, a water polo coach with Tustin High and the SOCAL Water Polo Club in Southern California, died after injuries sustained during a car crash, according to the Tustin Unified School District. He suffered a head injury and underwent surgery after the April 16th crash, but succumbed to his injuries 3 days later.
The 26-year old Tustin High School graduate began coaching at his alma mater, and SOCAL, in 2014, and in the fall he helped lead the boys’ water polo team to the CIF Southern Section Finals – which the team had not accomplished since 1982. That run earned him CIF-SS Division 6 Coach of the Year honors.
He was also a coach with the school’s swimming program, and the swim team learned of his death the day before they swam in the Empire League championship meet.
Altamirano was a registered organ donor, and his fiance is expecting to give birth in a few months. A memorial fund set up in his name has already received almost $75,000 in donations from 708 people in just 11 days at the time of posting.
Tustin High School’s athletics directors Melisa Trout and Tom Giebe penned a remembrance of Altamirano after his death, which can be read below.
Our swimmers experienced a gauntlet of emotions when they learned of his passing. There was disbelief, anguish, and the immediate acknowledgement of the loss of a man that guided them in all aspects of life.
…And then they got in the pool. Being in the water seemed to change the somber experience into a celebration of life. Tears turned to laughter as they shared funny stories and “Cesar sayings.” They leaned on each other and remarkably transformed tragedy into solidarity. On top of everything else, each swimmer had to decide whether or not he/she was going to compete in League Prelims the next day. By the time each of the athletes left the pool deck that day, every single one had signed up to compete – just like their coach would have wanted.
League Prelims is a time for a swimmer to finally see how much he/she has improved over the season. As tradition, our players were shaved and ready to compete. Yet in addition to their goggles and suits, our swimmers sported “Swim for Cesar” and “Cesar Strong” tattoos on their arms and backs. With the desire to dedicate each stroke to their coach, our swimmers stepped on to the deck at Kennedy knowing that the meet was about more than their final times on the touchpad. 90% of our swimmers qualified for League Finals on Tuesday, proving once again that in the darkest of hours, we sometimes find our strength. Rest in Peace, Coach Cesar. We will always feel your wet footprints on the Tustin Pool deck.
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Our Tiller swim family did what Cesar would have wanted us to do at League Prelim today. Took on challenges and strived to achieve our goals…all the while embracing our fellow friends & teammates. Hope you enjoyed the races from the best seat in the house Cesar! #SwimforCesar #CesarStrong #TustinAquatics