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Using disappointment as future motivation, Anderson Swimmer of the Year once more

Gavin Anderson doesn't shy away from saying the end to his senior season in the pool was disappointing.

The senior DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swimmer finished in the state preliminaries with a slower time (1:45.97) than his seed time in the 200 free, leaving him in 31st place. He entered state with the 25th-best qualifying time, 1:43.64, his personal and school best. His 500 seed time, had he matched it, also would have qualified him for the final round.

But it was still a season that ended with a trip to the state meet, record-breaking time and a second consecutive Daily Chronicle Swimmer of the Year award for Anderson.

“High school season ended kind of on a bad note. I didn’t swim as well as I wanted to," Anderson said. "I still wish I could go back and swim that meet again because I wanted to swim faster; I wanted to do better … it’s just tough.”

The high standards that Anderson set for himself, a rigorous training regimen applied with the help of coaches Melanie Chambers and Emily Waller, and the further push from trainer Troy Talaga of Realize Athletics, helped Anderson to peak in his senior season in the 200 free and in his day-to-day work.

“When I came in freshman year, I wasn’t one of the best on the team. I was just an average swimmer," Anderson said. "There was a lot of people better than me. But I trusted Mel; I trusted the workouts.”

This season, Anderson re-established his own 200 free school record with a time of 1:43.64, and still owns the 500 free record of 4:38.26 that he set in his junior season.

In addition to competing in YMCA competition since the age of 8, Anderson has been putting in exhausting distance work a few times a week. This past offseason, he upped the frequency of his distance workouts to three to four days a week per his coaches' suggestions, with fewer breaks in between distance repetitions. He also was spending six days a week training at the YMCA.

Chambers said that Anderson's junior year success informed the decision to greatly toughen his workouts.

“He’s really the only distance swimmer that spent a lot of the year also training on his own," Chambers said. "Nobody else really needed those workouts, and we really did take his workouts to the next level. ... The things we threw his way were not easy.”

Those workouts left Anderson with a serious approach.

“Emily and Mel, they weren’t there to mess around," Anderson said. "They were there to get me into shape. They were there to get me to my best potential. I thank them for that.”

The regular season provided its own challenges, as DeKalb faced several of the better swimming programs in the state in the DuPage Valley Conference, as Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley both finished top 10 at the state meet.

Anderson, who so intensely focused on improving, said he had to remind himself to have fun and enjoy time with his teammates. In Anderson's first season as a captain, Chambers said he was solid in that role.

“He did a pretty good job of staying levelheaded," Chambers said. "He knew that making it to state was such an accomplishment, and he was happy with that."

As an NCAA Division II swimmer at Colorado-Mesa next season, Anderson has his sights set high, with the memory of the end of his senior season fresh in his mind.

“I want to make [D-II nationals] my freshman year," he said. "That would be a big accomplishment. ... That’s going to be my main goal: Drop as much time as I can."

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