June 29, 2012
TUCSON - Kevin Cordes, a 6-5 rising sophomore swimmer at Arizona, was highly-recruited out of high school. But no one expected Cordes to have the kind of freshman year that he did for the Wildcats.
When choosing a college, Cordes had several options. After winning the 2008 Illinois state championship for Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill. and finishing runner up the following two years, Cordes had a list of colleges all over the country to choose from. The likes of California, Southern California, Arizona, Virginia and Auburn all wanted him to be a part of their program.
But something stuck out to Cordes in his decision to pick Arizona. In addition to its nationally-respected production of breaststrokers, he had personal reasons as well.
"My parents both went there, and my dad played football for Arizona in the 80's so I've always been a fan of Arizona," Cordes said. "I wanted to be a part of the great breaststroker history at there. When I took my visit, it just felt right. I felt at home from day one. From the coaching staff to all my teammates, it felt like family."
Cordes wasted no time and jumped onto the national scene as a freshman. At the 2012 NCAA Championships he won a national title in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 medley relay, set an American record in the 100 breaststroke, set an American record in the 200 medley relay (with Giles Smith, Mitchell Friedemann and Adam Small), was a runner up in the 400 medley relay and placed third in the 200 breaststroke. He was already a four-time All-American.
No one expected immediate success; no one but Cordes himself.
"I knew Arizona was a swimming power and I wanted to come it a do my best," Cordes said. "I just try to get better every day."
Cordes took this same approach to this summer's Olympics trials. The 18-year old was .43 seconds off qualifying for the Olympics in the 100m breaststroke. The top two finishers qualify and Cordes finished third, but it did not hinder him.
"It's amazing swimming against guys like (Michael) Phelps," Cordes said. "I remember watching him in the Beijing Olympics and now I'm competing with him."
Despite the competition, win or lose, you won't see Cordes getting down on himself.
"I love representing my school and competing," Cordes said. "I try not to think about it too much. I just go out there and do the best I can and try to get better daily. Every day I continue to do my best. My ultimate goal is to make the 2016 Olympic team."
Cordes has put himself in a position to do big things on the swimming scene. Keep his name in mind--you will probably hear it in coming years.