Local swimmer, volleyball player qualify for Olympics
Two local athletes have achieved the ultimate sports dream, qualifying to represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Kevin Cordes, from Naperville, successfully qualified for the Olympics in the 100-meter backstroke, swimming a time of 59.18 in the Olympic Trials last month. It's a gratifying accomplishment for Cordes, who just missed qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London after coming in third place. For the past year, Cordes has been training in Singapore with that country's national swim team coach, Sergio Lopez. The work led Cordes to set a new American record in the 100-meter breaststroke in the semifinals of the trials.
His success at the trials continues a streak for Cordes, who took gold in the 400-meter medley relay, silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and bronze in the 50-meter breaststroke at the 2015 FINA World Championships. He also set American records in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events at the 2014 NCAA Championships, where he swam for the University of Arizona.
Cordes, who went to high school at Neuqua Valley, told the Chicago Tribune that he was shocked and excited to make the team, and that he definitely did carry the burden of just missing the 2012 Olympics in training since then.
Kelly Murphy, who was born in Joliet and attended Joliet Catholic Academy, was named a member of the Team USA 12-person women's volleyball team. Murphy, now living in Wilmington, began her volleyball career at age 11 with Club Uno, following in the footsteps of her mother who played volleyball at Illinois State University. Her boyfriend, Christian Taylor, also has Olympic experience, having won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in triple jump.
Murphy went to the University of Florida (UF), playing for the school's women's volleyball team while majoring in elementary education. Her coach there, Mary Wise, complimented her arm swing and court vision, as well as her delivery and touch. She left her mark on the record books in Gainesville, finishing seventh in UF history in sets played (447), eighth in kills (1,306), eighth in assists (2,671), 10th in aces (126) and 10th in points (1,567.5). She also registered 30 career triple-doubles. She was also a three-time AVCA All-American (second-team in 2009 and first team in both 2010 and 2011) while she was there.
While this will be the highest level of international competition Murphy has experienced, she's no stranger to the world game. She scored a team-high 157 points during the 2014 FIVB World Championship, leading Team USA to gold. She joined the U.S. Women's team in 2013 and led the team in scoring her first two seasons. Murphy is a skilled spiker, finishing the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round ranked second with a kill percentage of 45 percent.
Murphy told the Chicago Tribune she was struck all but speechless, saying she was still processing the news and that she is very honored to have it happen.