Swimmer Gordon has never stopped improving

BY BEN ROSS | DECEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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The quest to earn a Division-I scholarship isn't an easy task for most high-school athletes — and it only gets harder for an athlete when high schools in his state don't offer the sport in which he excels.

But Hawkeye swimmer Paul Gordon is a testament to the idea that one can earn a scholarship with hard work and excellent performance.

The senior freestyler said he was recruited by a few Big Ten schools at the beginning of his college-selection process, but it was tough to gain national attention because swimming wasn't offered as a high-school sport in his hometown of Sioux Falls, S.D.

That all changed after Gordon started improving his times, and more offers came in once he started competing on the U.S. Junior National Team.

But in the end, he decided to stay loyal to the team that had recruited him from the beginning: Iowa.

"I made the decision that I wanted to stick with the schools that contacted me the earliest," he said. "I posted an Olympic Trials time while I was being recruited … [and] I started being recruited by a lot more schools. I liked all the schools I visited, but eventually it was Iowa that I liked the most."

He said the engineering program and a surprise visit from someone on his campus tour may have sparked his interest in taking his talents to Iowa City.

"I really liked the engineering program; I got excited about taking classes when I visited," the electrical and computer engineering major said. "I ran into the [former] dean [of the engineering school, now-Provost Barry Butler] while I was taking my visit there. He noticed we were swimmers, and his kids swam. He talked to me for a little bit, and I just liked the whole atmosphere in the engineering college."

Gordon has established a laundry list of accolades during his swimming career at Iowa: He owns the school record in the 100 free with a time of 43.51, and he also has a hand in school records in the 200-, 400-, and 800-free relays and the 200- and 400-medley relays.

The Iowa coaches aren't sparing in their praise for Gordon; assistant coach Nathan Mundt, for example, said Gordon is one of the team's most reliable swimmers when it comes to winning events.

"Paul is so versatile," Mundt said. "He gives us a lot of options; he has made a lot of progress. He spends a lot of time in the weight room and has improved by leaps and bounds. He truly has become a man since stepping on campus."

Perhaps Gordon's greatest feat was earning All-American honors for his performance in the 400-free relay at the NCAA meet in March. He and teammates Duncan Partridge, Jordan Huff, and Ryan Phelan finished 15th overall, earning them the status.

Gordon said he's honored to have the title, although he wasn't always aware of its existence.

"I didn't really know what [All-American status] was until I was a sophomore," he said. "It feels pretty cool to have reached a level that gains respect from college athletes. Being a college athlete and an All-American is something I can be proud of."

Gordon spends plenty of time in the pool and in the weight room, and he said he enjoys spending what free time he has playing music. He played cello in his high school's orchestra, and he has a collection of instruments that include a bass and acoustic and electric guitars — all of which get used "pretty regularly," he said.

He still doesn't get to play music as much as he would like to and pointed out how he's looking forward to next year, when he and Partridge — a drummer — will have more free time to jam.

Partridge said he considers his teammate one of his best friends and he's a great person to compete with.

"In the pool, he's one of the most talented swimmers I have ever trained with," the Lake Forest, Ill., native said. "We have pretty similar personalities; he's a great guy and one of my best friends.

"You can count on him in the pool, and you can count on him out of the pool."

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