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DCST Swimmer Michael Gordon Named Male Swimmer of the Year

No looking back

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com

Sycamore senior Michael Gordon, of the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swimming team, is the Daily Chronicle’s 2011 Boys Swimmer of the Year. (Rob Winner – rwinner@daily-chronicle.com)
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There was one practice this winter that DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swimmer Michael Gordon had to miss in order to take a visit to Xavier University, where he’ll swim in college.

His team almost didn’t know how to start practice without him.

“He’s the first one in every day at practice,” DeKalb-Sycamore coach Leah Eames said. “... During that day the guys even joked around about it, like, ‘How’s practice going to start without Michael jumping in the water?’ Because they basically waited for him to jump in and start and everybody else followed after that.”

One of the leaders of the co-op team, which went undefeated in dual meets, Gordon turned in a memorable season that almost didn’t happen because of ongoing back trouble caused by a bulging disc. Gordon finished sixth in the state in the 100-yard breaststroke, won that same event at sectionals and was a part of two state-qualifying relay teams.

For his accomplishments, Gordon, a senior at Sycamore, has been named the 2010-11 Daily Chronicle Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Gordon first noticed problems in his back in January of last year, but chalked it up to a tight muscle. It wasn’t until seeing in a doctor and undergoing an MRI in October did he realized it was much more serious. Doctors presented Gordon with the option of surgery or a more conservative treatment of physical therapy and an occasional cortisone injection. He chose to put off surgery.

It hurt Gordon most on flip turns or if he did too many starts. The cortisone shots didn’t really help, but the physical therapy did after a while.

“It’s generally not too bad when I’m actually swimming, but later on at night, after practices, it stiffens up and hurts to walk and all sort of stuff,” Gordon said.

Gordon pushed through it and the team kept winning dual meets and invitationals, even though Eames said it wasn’t until the final weeks of the season that Gordon was where he should be endurance-wise.

All the while, Gordon took home first-place honors in multiple events in relays, leading the team to one of its best seasons in history.

“I would look at who the other teams had as far as their best guys and I would put Michael against them, having confidence in him that he could take those guys down and dropping those guys down to a second and Michael taking first would make the difference between winning a meet and not,” Eames said.

At sectionals, Gordon hit a peak and dropped time to win the 100 breaststroke and also qualify in the 200-yard individual medley. The state meet at Evanston saw him make the championship finals in a loaded meet in which Richwoods’ Matt Elliott set a state record in the 100 breaststroke.

“I was surprised when I ended up making the top-six cut,” Gordon said. “I wanted to make finals.”

Gordon swam the finals in 58.08 seconds to finish sixth overall.

Eames said Gordon will be missed next season not only for his contributions in the pool, but for how he led the team throughout the season.

“In general he’s always been one of those guys that everyone has looked up to,” Eames said. “He’s not as cocky or arrogant as he probably should be with as much success as he’s had in the years he’s been swimming. I think that’s kind of cool. He’s very grounded.”

Gordon now will train for the YMCA National swim meet in April in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. This fall, he’ll join his brother David and former DeKalb standout Chad Thompson at Xavier.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Gordon said. “My brother loves it, Chad loves it, I’m in contact with them practically every day. I’m looking forward to it.”