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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Dunlap swimmer set for trial of his life

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  • DUNLAP — Per usual, there was Monday swim practice for the Dunlap/IVC/Princeville team, with one notable difference: No Jake Vandermyde.
    A sprint specialist, Vandermyde is facing the biggest challenge of his 18-year life, and it has nothing to do with a swimming pool.
    Vandermyde is to have a cancerous tumor, about the size of golf ball, removed from just below his left calf muscle Tuesday at Rush Hospital in Chicago. His potential for qualifying for the state finals in his senior year is on hold.
    "On Tuesday last week, we found out I have a soft tissue sarcoma, which was graded as fairly active," Vandermyde said Sunday.
    The news is a blow to the unbeaten Dunlap team, which has posted some of the best times in the area. "There is nothing you can do to prevent this, and for it to happen at this time was really tough," said close friend and teammate Tony Feng. "When I first learned about it, I sat down and cried for about an hour.
    "Jake is more than a teammate. When I first moved here, he was like family to me. He is someone I know I can trust. To have him diagnosed with a cancerous tumor is definitely a lot to take."
    Vandermyde said he noticed a bump on his leg five weeks ago. Early thoughts centered on the abnormality being a football injury that hadn't fully recovered. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior played linebacker and was also on the offensive line for the Eagles' football team. He was a three-year starter.
    After being advised to have the bump checked out, an MRI, a biopsy and eventual pathology report confirmed it was cancerous.
    Vandermyde was disturbed when he found out the results, but said he thought first of his teammates.
    "What I was really upset about was our relays. We have three really good relays I'm a part of and we're really excited about making it to state," Vandermyde said. "I was really upset this could hurt our team. ... I was thinking not so much about the surgery, but about my recovery and getting back to the guys."
    Dunlap owns the Journal Star area's fastest times in the 200-yard medley, 200 free and 400 free relays. The times mark the Eagles as favorites to advance to state from the East Moline Sectional.
    "I'd love to help him, but other than supporting him there is nothing I can do to speed the recovery," said Cheng, a member of all three relays. "All I can really do is try and get myself faster, motivate my teammates to get faster and hopefully we can help carry Jake to victory because he's been carrying our relays, making us really fast.
    "Now is our time to step up and help him out."
    Page 2 of 3 - Vandermyde said he will be out of the water for 10-14 days. Once he is back in the water the strength in his left foot at first will be limited, so he will be unable to push off the wall or go off the blocks.
    "I'm told it's a six-week recovery, on average," Vandermyde said. "I'm hoping with support and being young, I can get back before that ... and potentially get back for sectionals."
    While he won't know until the tumor is removed, Vandermyde doesn't expect any radiation or chemo treatments will be necessary. His medical projection is for no permanent damage and a return to full strength.
    "The specialists were amazed how well his skin, his leg healed after the biopsy," said Dunlap coach Jim Bucher. "If anybody can come back from surgery quickly, it's Jake."
    The 400 free relay is the final competition of a swim meet, the crescendo event, so to speak. On Saturday at the Charger Invitational in Champaign, Vandermyde pulled his 400-relay teammates together prior to the start of event.
    "I called everyone together," Vandermyde said, "We had swam well this season so far, but we didn't think we had reached what we could do.
    "I told them, 'Hey guys, who knows what is going to happen after this? It could be my last high school meet.' Everybody was ready to go."
    Feng, Gabe Sowards and Collin O'Brien each recorded personal bests to establish a school record with an area-best 3 minutes, 15 seconds in the event, capped by Vandermyde's :46.84 anchor leg. Earlier, Vandermyde's anchor leg of :21.10 in the 200 medley relay gave the Eagles a win and a school-record time of 1:37.78.
    As sweet as the relay records were to Vandermyde, the defining moment of the Charger Invitational had to be his individual school record in the 100 free.
    "Since my freshman year, my goal was to beat the 100-free record," Vandermyde said. "The record belonged to coach Bucher's son, Jeff, and I've been getting closer and closer to it. This year, my plan was to get that record off the board."
    Vandermyde did just that in 47.69 seconds, defeating Normal U-High's Adam Drury by more than a second. Drury was the sectional champion in the event last year and reached the consolation finals at state.
    "I had to convince myself, regardless, to treat this as my last meet," Vandermyde said. "I didn't give myself an option for leaving anything in the water. All out or nothing."
    Said Bucher: "I expected him to break that record. I rested him for two days going in, knowing it might be his last opportunity ... didn't want to taper him too much, though, I want him back for sectionals."
    Bo Ryan can be reached at 686-3214 or rryan@pjstar.com. Follow him Twitter @TheRealBoRyan
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