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South Dakota swimmer making splash

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Iowa sophomore Paul Gordon never dolphin-kicked in high school.

At Washington High School in Sioux Falls, S.D., swimming isn’t on the list of competitive high-school sports. But through a club team, student-athletes can earn a varsity letter in the sport.

Faced with the option, he swam for the Snowfox Club team before being noticed by Iowa head coach Marc Long, who said he is coming into his own this season.

Following a lackluster freshman campaign, he has added more strength and confidence after not swimming competitively in years past.

“[Before] last year, he didn’t even do a dual meet,” Long said. “South Dakota doesn’t have high-school swimming. It’s all club. It was a whole new experience for him.”

As a prep, Gordon swam mostly against the clock and set 25 state swimming records.

Not until last season, at the annual Black and Gold intrasquad meet during his freshman year did he discover what college swimming was all about.

He said he remembers when the meet was over, several swimmers congratulated him, saying, “Paul, good meet.”

To which he responded, “Yeah, that was my first dual meet.”

The statement left his teammates’ jaws hanging.

“At the first meet, someone had to tell me where to go,” Gordon said. “I wasn’t sure about the order of the swimming at the dual meet.”

Another thing he wasn’t sure about was how well he would perform.

Before college, he swam at the U.S. Olympic trials and for the National Junior team. He said those experiences provided him with confidence he could compete on this level.

In club swimming, a swimmer’s focus is posting his best times at the end of the season. In college, a swimmer must race near the top of his game to score team points in dual meets.

Assistant coach Nathan Mundt said Gordon has made great improvement since arriving on campus.

“Well with his club background, Paul wasn’t use to the dual meet such as we have,” Mundt said. “But he has really excelled with it. He’s a great in-season swimmer and has really taken off with it in that kind of atmosphere.

While growing up, Gordon’s game was geared toward long-course swimming.

“When I got to college, it was this huge transition,” he said. “I had to be able to swim short course all the time. I was missing a lot of strength.

“I had bad techniques with turns and starts, and I’ve been working with the coaches on that non-stop since I got here.”

Ever since middle school, Gordon knew he wanted to be a college swimmer. He said the college swimming camaraderie is lacking in club swimming but is rivaled in other team sports.

He described club swimming as more selfish, because the climate emphasizes individual racing.

“College swimming is where it’s at,” Gordon said. “The Olympics are there. … It’s not like baseball or football. College swimming is the best competition. That’s what the fans follow. That was one of my goals — to swim in the NCAA.”

Now that he has acclimated himself to Division-I swimming, his coaches have noticed a change in his nature.

“Paul is funny. He’s a fun guy and a very bright individual,” Mundt said and laughed. “He’s a talker, I should say. He likes to be around the guys, and he’ll tell you all you want to know about South Dakota.”


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