Greg Hansen: Kevin Cordes is in fast lane to greatness

Cordes, Geer astonish swimming world with 4 NCAA titles for UA
2013-04-02T00:00:00Z 2013-04-02T08:44:58Z Greg Hansen: Kevin Cordes is in fast lane to greatnessGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

UA swimmers have been so good for so long, on every conceivable stage, that you don't often call the boss and say, "Forget the Final Four, I've gotta get this in the paper now!"

Do you realize what it would take to be considered one of the five greatest Arizona swimmers ever, with Olympic medalists George DiCarlo, Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman and Chad Carvin?

It would take Michael Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, tweeting "HOLY WOW!!!!!" with five exclamation marks.

It would take UA swimming coach Eric Hansen, six times a USA National team coach, comparing your record-setting performance to that of Olympic long-jumping legend Bob Beamon.

And it would take your teammate, 11-time All-American Giles Smith, to say, "He's the next big thing in swimming."

Introducing UA sophomore Kevin Cordes, who broke American and world records at the NCAA championships last week in Indianapolis, doing so by such a margin that Hansen compared it to "dropping a bomb."

What makes the Cordes-becomes-NCAA-swimmer-of-the-year news even more startling is that a week earlier, in the NCAA women's championships, Arizona junior Margo Geer was chosen swimmer-of-the-year by College Swimming.

Like Cordes, Geer won two individual NCAA titles in 2013, and she helped Arizona score 176 points in five relays. Swimming World called her "a superstar."

It was a performance of such scope that Geer surely joins former Wildcat stars Lacey Nymeyer, Whitney Myers, Lara Jackson and Crissy Ahmann-Perham among the Big Five in school history.

"Margo and Kevin are the foundation for our success here," said Hansen. "And you haven't seen anything yet of what they are capable of doing. Kevin is 19, Margo is 21. They'll be among America's top swimmers for the next 10 years."

Nether Cordes nor Geer celebrated by jumping into the pool for a victory lap or tweeting about how great they are.

"They're both pretty introverted," said Hansen. "Neither one of them likes the spotlight other than to swim fast and be on the winner's podium - and then it's like, 'Get me out of here.'"

Surrounded by reporters in Indianapolis, Cordes wore a red UA stocking cap with the old McKale Center cactus-and-sunset logo. For 4 minutes and 10 seconds, he gave short answers and shrugged 21 times. That's also got to be a world record.

"It's a great training environment at Arizona," Cordes said with a shrug. "I just found the right school and teammates to train with."

Cordes, a breast stroker, and Geer, a freestyler, are both true to their Midwestern roots. Cordes is the son of former UA backup quarterback Bill Cordes, a banker from Naperville, Ill. Geer is the daughter of Mark Geer, a teacher/farmer from Milford Center, Ohio.

Both were recruited to Arizona by USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch, UA's former coach, but it was Hansen who inherited the franchise swimmers. How's that for timing?

Before embarking on a fortnight in Indianapolis, Hansen hoped his team would peak in time to "erase some records" on display at the Hillenbrand Aquatics Center. That's not just idle chatter at Arizona, or wishful thinking.

Olympic gold medalists like Amanda Beard, Beth Botsford, Ashley Tappin, Trina Jackson and Lyndon Ferns have had UA records similarly erased.

Given that history, Geer and Cordes should perhaps be considered temporary permanent record holders.

Cordes swam the 200-yard breast stroke in 1:48.68, taking almost three seconds off his own American/world records. Swimming mathematicians immediately converted that to the more-conventional global measurement of 200 meters, which would be 2:04.67.

The world record in the 200-meter breaststroke is 2:07.01. Thus, Cordes' winning time stunned a swimming world in which records are usually broken by tenths of a second.

Cordes, who also set records in winning his second straight NCAA 100 breast stroke title in 50.74, shrugged and later tweeted, "I'm so proud of my third-place Wildcats."

UA swimmers don't kick back and rest on their numbers. They've got two separate seasons, college and club, and both Cordes and Geer will train straight through June to the American trials for the World Championships.

It's conceivable Geer will be America's top freestyle sprinter in the World Championships a month later in Barcelona, Spain. If someone finishes ahead of Cordes at the trials it'll be five-exclamation-marks news.

After all, Michael Phelps' coach called Cordes' swim last week in Indianapolis the greatest in short-course history.

"We need to get back to work," Hansen said Monday. "I told Kevin today we've got a small window in which to do some testing. I liked his response.

"He said he's up for it."

It figures. A month ago, before he went to the Pac-12 finals and became the league's Swimmer of the Year, Cordes tweeted "sharpened the bullet today."

Now he's the shot heard 'round the swimming world.

Contact Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362. On Twitter @ghansen711

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