1992: Medalist Credits Coach for Mettle

Sorrells had hand in Jordan’s two Olympic victories

Shaun Jordan
Former Olympic gold medalist Shaun Jordan still swims in Austin, but he calls these daily dips “active sunbathing.” (Photo: Erich Schlegel)

By Georgia Fisher | Staff Writer

Shaun Jordan swam his way to Olympic gold in 1988, and again in 1992. But as a junior at Highland Park High School, the lackadaisical teen almost got tossed out of the water.

Or so he thinks.

Swimming “was life changing,” says Jordan, a freestyler who went on to swim for UT-Austin. He also leads swimming outreach programs for kids, an accomplishment he seems to prize above any medal, and launched a career in finance. High school coach Mike Sorrells, who figured heavily into a Aug. 27, 1992 Park Cities People article about Jordan’s 400-meter relay wins in Seoul and Barcelona, “is directly responsible for having changed [my life],” Jordan adds. “He was about to kick me off the team, but instead of kicking me off, he let me earn my way back on.”

Shaun Jordan
Former Highland Park coach Mike Sorrells grabbed one of Shaun Jordan’s two golds in the 400-meter freestyle for a Park Cities People photo taken in 1992.

Shaun Jordan
Former USA Olympic gold medal swimmer Shaun Jordan, now Director of Marketing for Abraham Trading Co., at his office in downtown Austin, Texas. (Photo: Erich Schlegel)

Sorrells tells a different story.

“Oh, he may think he was close to getting kicked off,” said Sorrells, who retired from HPISD in 2002. “He wasn’t. He just didn’t know it.”

When he saw Jordan swim as a boy, Sorrells said, he knew the youngster was bound for something great. He was right. Before taking Olympic gold, the 1986 Highland Park graduate would win NCAA titles for four straight years. But as as teen, Jordan “was immature,” Sorrells explains, “both emotionally and physically.”

Sorrells’ stock punishment for tardiness was to bar an offending student from practice for the rest of the day. “As I saw it,” he said, “the absolute worst thing I could do to you was deny you the opportunity to get better.” His method shamed many latecomers into begging. Some even cried. But Jordan? Not so much.

“Ooooh, he thought it was wonderful,” Sorrells remembers.

That snarky teen is now the father of 3-year-old Jackson, a water-happy little boy with curly red hair, whose arrival “is probably the most exciting thing to happen in 20 years,” Jordan figures. He swims every day on his lunch hour, at a YMCA near his office. And he seems to love his job — one where portfolios have replaced scoreboards. Sort of.

“Finance is sort of a brutal world,” said Jordan, “where your performance at the end of the year, to a significant degree, is your time. You try to get better. And we’ve got a great coach-slash-leader here with my boss,” Abraham Trading founder Salem Abraham.

The way he tells it, those midday dips in the pool are oceans apart from his former work as an athlete.

“I’m doing active sunbathing,” Jordan quipped. “I don’t go there to feel any discomfort.” When he’s in the water, he explained, “the phone can’t ring. No one can honk their horn. It’s a nice retreat.”

It’s been about five years since Jordan visited the pool at Highland Park High School, but he thinks about it often.

“Sports in general teaches you some pretty great life lessons,” he said, “but swimming does an exceptional job of it. Standing on the starting block in your underwear, in front of the world …”

He trailed off, laughing.

“It’s probably not going to get any freakier than that.”

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In March, University Park businessman William Karl Alley Jr., who had been missing for more than a year, was found alive and well in Lynchburg, Va. UP police issued a warrant for his arrest after his wife filed charges for not paying child support. When he disappeared, Alley left behind his pregnant wife, four children, and a business that was rumored to be in financial trouble.

In April, voters passed the bond that would raise money for the soon-to-come middle school/intermediate school campus. By September, the school district had acquired 15 of the 31 lots needed to build the schools.

In November, Highland Park High School’s football team broke the state UIL record for most playoff appearances. The Scots’ 35th postseason berth broke a mark set by Hondo High School.

Also in November, on the 10th anniversary of their founding, the Highland Belles removed all official height, weight, and body fat restrictions for the squad. “They [parents and medical experts] felt that the requirements might be a trigger to an eating disorder,” said Cathy Wheat, the Belles’ director at the time.

In May, Highland Park elected Wade Smith as mayor, and University Park voters welcomed Barbara Hitzelberger to the mayor’s chair. Future Highland Park Mayor William Seay Jr. was elected to his first term on the Town Council.

Valedictorian: Tom Sharpe
Salutatorian: Peter Hegi
Blanket Award winners: Wiliam Christopher Pritchett and Margaret Susan Fulkerson
Homecoming Queen: Katherine Bush

Elizabeth Hussman Augur, Catherine Lee Clark, Ellet deLacy Kidd, Karen Ketron Moore

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