FLEMING ISLAND - Magnolia Point resident Greg Achors holds a strong connection to one of Clay County’s most celebrated athletes mainly because they share the same passion for their …
FLEMING ISLAND - Margarets Walk resident Greg Achors holds a strong connection to one of Clay County’s most celebrated athletes mainly because they share the same passion for their sport.
“I live vicariously through Caeleb Dressel,” said Achors, 55, an Indiana high school multiple state swim champion (Two individual golds; one relay in 1982 with team title; runnerups in 1981), an NCAA championship swimmer for the University of Tennessee (1983-84, sixth in 100 fly in SEC, seventh in 100 breast, 10th in NCAA in 400 medley relay, 10th in NCAA team finish 1983) and a near-miss Olympic hopeful that saw a broken wrist derail a possible shot at the big prize. “I started at 10 years old and swam everything like he has recently. Caeleb has taken swimming to his own level. He’s fun to watch and is a good ambassador of the sport.”
Achors was also a three time All-American in high school with top 10 times in the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
Note: Dressel is a multiple state swim champion who graduated Clay High School, has won a ton of NCAA championships for the University of Florida, set national and world records, won Olympic gold medals and world championship records.
For his swimming prowess at Kokomo High School in Indiana, Achors was inducted into the Indiana Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame as one of two swimmers in the Class of 2019 induction ceremony held April 14 in Indianapolis.
Achors, a retired U.S. Navy Commander and aviator and now a 20-plus year pilot for Federal Express, has spent the latter part those 20 years in Fleming Island with his wife Christi and two sons, Kyle and Konnor. Konnor Achors, now 27 and a Florida Highway Patrol K-9 Unit officer, was a state meet hurdler, swimmer and basketball player at Fleming Island High School. Kyle, 29, is an orthopedic surgeon in the Tampa area. Wife Christi is a former high level tennis player who now works at the Eagle Harbor Tennis Complex.
“The older the boys got, the more they realized I was a pretty good athlete, “said Achors. “But, Konnor excelled and even ran for four years at the University of Indiana in the hurdles and played basketball. He was such a good athlete, they wanted him to do the decathlon. He still runs, but it’s mainly chasing bad guys.”
Kyle was a cross country and track athlete at Fleming Island, but was intent on becoming a doctor post high school.
Achors, though, almost got his push into the family’s sport of baseball with Major League Baseball players among his uncles and close relatives.
“I thought I was a better baseball player than a swimmer back then,” said Achors. “I had a grandfather who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, a cousin who played quarterback at Michigan and another cousin who was a Major League player.”
Achors was recognized as a legit baseball prospect until a gym coach suggested to his parents that swimming might be his sport.
“He was a swim coach for another high school that saw me swim,” said Achors. “He wound up calling my parents and told them I should try the local YMCA swim program. That’s where it all started.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the swim and baseball seasons conflicted forcing Achors to choose one.
“Not to brag, but when I was in high school, I didn’t get beat in dual meets, sectionals and all but a couple of times, firsts in our Olympic conference stuff,” said Achors. “I had quite a bit of success in swimming.”
From 10 years old, Achors showed the prowess that would bring him state championship medals through high school and a lofty career at the University of Tennessee.
“I was highly recruited, but chose Tennessee who was just coming off an NCAA championship in 1978, a runnerup in 1979 and a third in 1980,” said Achors, a 1982 graduate of Kokomo. “The Southeastern Conference back then was loaded.”
Achors success created a track of optimism that an Olympic swim team berth was imminent, but a broken wrist in his second year at Tennessee set back that dream.
“My goal after two years at Tennessee was to get to the Olympic team,” said Achors. “I was all set and had a chance before I broke the rest.
It threw my training way off and I wound up going to the U.S. Nationals and some of those high caliber meets, but the injury and recovery and trying to train through it made me think I had been swimming for a long time. I finished up school and then went into the Navy.”
In the Navy, Achors flew P3s through Desert Storm and Kosovo and even tickled an idea of coming back to a Master’s swim program.
“I knew that if I got into a Master’s team, I would have to be all in and it would be all consuming,” said Achors. “I had a swim friend at Auburn and some other guys and we played around trying to get a Master’s national meet, but things always happened; I got sick, he hurt his shoulder. The master’s idea didn’t last long as I had already accomplished about as much as I wanted to.”
Achors had a 19 year stint with golf clubs, stopped, but recently dragged his clubs back out.
“Same thing, I played a lot in those 19 years and then stopped, but when I picked it back up, I thought about I could be playing in the PGA, even got Eagle Harbor coach Pete Stuttz to help me out,” said Achors. “But, I’m terrible.”
Achors cited his Indiana high school team championship in 1982 as a highlight of his swim career.
“We won that title with a limited roster; maybe six guys including a diver, “ said Achors. “We had a good strong, small group of swimmers and we got big points in our relays. We had the fastest 200 medley relay in the nation our senior year; just 10ths off the national record.”