AVON, Ind. (WISH) – Elliot Cooper just wants to be back to normal.
Avon High School‘s senior swim team captain owns at least a share of seven of the top 10 times in program history, and his obsession with the pool dates back to days as a 10-year-old learning his favorite stroke, the butterfly.
After storming off the block to start his high school career, the pool quickly turned into a place that only brought one feeling to Elliot’s mind: pain.
“I visited some professional, and they didn’t think it was anything serious at the time,” Cooper said. “I just went to physical therapy to control the pain so I could keep swimming. Eventually, it led to my spine curving in a way that led to surgery.”
The diagnosis came down the summer before a critical senior season. It was severe scoliosis. Elliot’s best chance to turn his impressive times at Avon into a college scholarship were dashed.
Despite the diagnosis, last June just one month before surgery on Elliot’s spine, he posted a butterfly time two hundredths of a second off the national record, an incredible accomplishment.
The surgery was successful, but there were no guarantees from the doctors Elliot would be ready for competition during his senior season in the fall or ever.
“It is not just a bunch of physical pain,” Cooper said. “There is a lot of emotional pain and to be where I was before surgery and see where I was after, it is hard to see that and to continue coming each day.”
It’s December, and Elliot’s comeback is on. His first meet was much better than expected, a double winner despite immense pain.
Cue Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s chorus for “comeback player of the year.” Elliot deserves the same campaign.
Just before meet No. 2 came, something he never expected. With the help of a $1,000 scholarship from IBEW Local 481, Elliot accepted the award in front of a group of his classmates, some who knew of his struggles and others just like you who are learning now.
The only thing Elliot managed to say: “I don’t know … I don’t know what to say.”
Fitting for those who watched his comeback. They are saying the same exact thing.