A lot happening for Cordes

  • Olympic swimmer Kevin Cordes of Naperville returned to Neuqua Valley to talk to current Neuqua Valley swimmers about what it takes to go for the gold Tuesday.

      Olympic swimmer Kevin Cordes of Naperville returned to Neuqua Valley to talk to current Neuqua Valley swimmers about what it takes to go for the gold Tuesday. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Olympic swimmer Kevin Cordes of Naperville returned to Neuqua Valley to talk to current Neuqua Valley swimmers about what it takes to go for the gold Tuesday.

      Olympic swimmer Kevin Cordes of Naperville returned to Neuqua Valley to talk to current Neuqua Valley swimmers about what it takes to go for the gold Tuesday. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Updated 12/9/2015 9:12 PM

You've got to start somewhere.

In essence that was the message Kevin Cordes delivered Wednesday to Neuqua Valley swimmers.


Among the world's best competitive swimmers with a bushel of American, U.S. Open and NCAA records in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke, Cordes recalled starting high school on the Neuqua Valley junior varsity.

"It doesn't matter where you start, if you just have a good attitude and have some belief, then a lot of things can happen," Cordes said Tuesday.

It helps to be 6-feet-6 and 201 pounds of flexible muscle. Chad Allen, who coached Cordes at Neuqua Valley and with Fox Valley Swimming, acknowledged as much. But Allen distinguished what makes Cordes special and an "idol" among the young swim set.

"I think more than anything it's attention and focus to detail that he's always been really good with," Allen said.

Though outstanding in high school, Cordes is not Neuqua Valley's most decorated swimmer; that would be Brian Alden with 14 all-state honors from 2005 through Cordes' freshman year, 2008. Cordes really hit stride at Arizona, where he became a 13-time All-American with six individual NCAA titles and two relay wins.

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The NCAA swimmer of the year in 2013 and 2014 and Arizona's 2014 male athlete of the year, Cordes owns eight of the top 10 all-time short-course times in the 100 breast and seven of 10 at 200 yards.

He stresses progression to the high schoolers.

"From there to where I am now, I give them a sense of what it's like, that they can take the sport as far as they want and they can get a lot things out of it. Show them that things are possible," he said.

Third in the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 100 breaststroke, one spot off qualification, upon finishing his college eligibility in June Cordes moved to Singapore to work toward 2016 with former Spanish Olympian Sergio López Miró, who coaches Singapore Swimming.

This August at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Cordes was heartened by a second-place finish in the 200-meter breast, first in the 400 medley relay and third in the 50 breast in an American-record 26.76 seconds.


"That kind of gave me confidence going into this year from an international perspective," said Cordes, 22.

He'll get another crack at that this weekend in Indianapolis. Competing in his second Duel in the Pool, a United States vs. Europe competition which Allen likened to the Ryder Cup of swimming, Cordes will compete in the 200 breast on Friday and the 100 on Saturday.

Maybe it's the goggles, but Cordes has tunnel vision. Asked what he considers to be his greatest achievements, he politely demurred.

"It's still not over," he said.

Among the best

To follow up the item of a couple weeks ago, Arizona Western College defeated No. 4 College of DuPage 14-5 in the El Toro Bowl on Dec. 5 in Yuma, Arizona. COD coach Matt Foster's Chaparrals finished the season 8-2.

"The kids played great against one of the most talented scholarship teams in the (National Junior College Athletic Association). Very proud of them," Foster said.

Backfield smarts

In November the Chicago Fire and Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association assembled the Chicago Fire 2015 Boys All-State All-Academic Soccer Team.

First Team selections included: goalkeepers Nathan Chalus of Glenbard North and Joe Coryell (Metea Valley); and defenders John Rudolph (Naperville Central), Stephen Pierzchala (York), Doug Smith (Neuqua Valley), Josh Solarz (Lake Park) and Jonathan Suh (Wheaton Warrenville South).

General accountability

If there were any question regarding Dave Saurbaugh's allegiances and tendencies on and off the basketball court, it can be summed up like so: the middle name of his son, David, is Knight. As in Bobby, the General.

"They said they wanted discipline," Saurbaugh said of the brain trust that hired him for Waubonsie Valley's boys basketball varsity coaching job in 1997 after one season at DeKalb and 16 years assisting Bill Chesbrough and Jim Harrington at Saurbaugh's alma mater, Elgin.

"Well," Saurbaugh told them, "I'm the right guy for that."

Demanding attention to detail particularly on the defensive end of the court, unafraid to cut ties with outstanding athletes if they didn't take school hallways and classrooms seriously, Saurbaugh went 158-57 over eight seasons with the Warriors. He won four regional titles, the 2003 Upstate Eight Conference title and went 28-2 in 2001-02.

Abruptly leaving the position after the 2004-05 season, a sixth straight 20-win campaign, Saurbaugh assisted on the girls varsity and sophomore teams the next eight years.

The former physical education instructor and assistant athletic director lives with his wife, Nancy, in Aurora and spends several months a year near David in Mesa, Arizona. They also have a daughter, Stefanie.

They'll unite April 30, 2016, at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center, when Saurbaugh joins a wealth of talent comprising the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

"It's a great honor," said Saurbaugh, entered as a career coach along with others including former York and Gordon Tech coach and NBA assistant Bob Ociepka.

"I think anytime a coach gets inducted into any kind of hall of fame it's based on what the kids do," said Saurbaugh, who uses Facebook to keep in touch with former players. "It's an honor as much for the players as it is for me."

It's also a red-letter day for current Riverside-Brookfield and former Montini coach Tom McCloskey, to be inducted along with his daughter, Maggie.

The North Central College 1983 Division III champion women's basketball team will be inducted, as will officials Sal Vasta of Elmhurst and posthumous honorees Rob Watson of Wheaton and Ed Monaghan of Hinsdale.

Saurbaugh said he owes this award to Harrington, the inspiration for many of his X's and O's.

As to his urge for accountability we can look to his formative years. A 1980 graduate of Indiana University, Saurbaugh took a class taught by Knight himself. No surprise, its stringency was legend.

"That was my only A-plus in college," Saurbaugh said.


Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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