Jean Gordon is a name that conjures great memories for Mason City swimming fans, and her name is one that is synonymous with success. In four seasons with the Mohawks, Gordon was a part of three state championship squads.
She is also the only member of those championship teams to win an individual state championship, when she won the 100 fly in 1989 and 1990.
This fall, Gordon will finally be honored as one of the best Mohawks of all time, when she is inducted in the Mason City Athletic Hall of Fame on September 6.
“It was very exciting to hear,” Gordon said. “My parents still live in Mason City, I still have lots of friends in Mason City. Even though I haven’t lived there since I graduated from high school, it’s still special.”
Gordon has a long list of accomplishments from her time as a Mohawk. She was a team captain during her junior and senior seasons. Her 1989 state championship time in the 100 fly was the fifth fastest time in Iowa history. She held the school record in the 100 fly for 22 years. Gordon never lost a 100 fly in a dual meet.
At one point in time, Gordon held school records in the 200 IM, the 100 fly, the 200 medley relay, and the 400 free relay.
But even than her individual success, Gordon cherishes the memories of the team championships. She was a star member of the 1987, 1988, and 1989 teams that won state titles, each of which will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a group.
For any team, winning three straight state championships is a special event. The Mohawks came close to four-year sweep of titles, but came up just short, finishing second during Gordon's senior season. But the memories are still sweet.
“We won the first one, and we were like, 'We’re losing a few people, but we’re gaining a few underneath,'” Gordon said. “The second one came, and the third one, I personally see as the sweetest for me.”
“We got second my senior year. The goal was to do four in a row, so senior year was a little bittersweet. But those are some awesome memories. It was such a team effort.”
Mason City swimming coach Steve Hugo coached Gordon from her club team years all the way through high school. Hugo remembers how Gordon had finished fifth and sixth in state for the 100 fly her freshman and sophomore year with her unusual "single-kick" butterfly technique.
Her fortunes changed when she met Marc Long, an All-American and Big-Ten Champion swimmer, who is now the head swimming coach at the University of Iowa
"We were at a summer swim meet, and she got done with her 100 fly," Hugo said. "She came over for her race review, and before I could get anything out about Jean's race, Marc Long said 'You know, if you put two kicks in that butterfly instead of one, you'd really be fast.'"
"After four or five years of me trying to get her to do two kicks on her fly, one comment from him, and from then on, she put two kicks in her fly, and was state champ her junior and senior year."
After graduating from Mason City High School in 1991, Gordon swam for the University of Kansas, until her junior season. As a Jayhawk, she helped the team win two Big Eight Championships in 1992, and 1993.
One of Gordon's teammates at Kansas was a former rival, Frankie Hanson. Hanson swam for Dowling Catholic, and finished second to Gordon in the 1989 100 fly finals.
"She kept things light and fun," Hanson said. "She tried to not take it over the top serious. She was able to keep the passion within the sport."
These days, Gordon works as the director of Visit Arvada, a tourism and marketing agency in Arvada, Colorado, just west of Denver. While she no longer lives in the area, she looks forward to returning Mason City for the ceremony, and is excited to see her teammates that are also being inducted.
“We were all very close as friends,” Gordon said. “We were all very motivated. Our parents didn’t have to kick us out of bed in the morning. We were ready to go, and we wanted to win.”