Grevers wows Lake Forest crowd
One of Matt Grevers gold medals. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 11, 2012 11:41AM
LAKE FOREST — The fans’ excitement reached fever pitch in the Lake Forest High School Commons Tuesday night when band members played the first few strains of the Olympics anthem to herald the arrival of hometown hero and Olympic gold medal swimmer Matt Grevers.
Grevers stepped onto the blue-draped stage as the crowd’s claps, whoops and cheers nearly drowned out everything else.
It was the first time Grevers, an LFHS grad, appeared in the town where he grew up with his gold medals from the Summer 2012 Games in London in tow.
“It’s really come back full circle,” the LFHS grad told the well-wishers after Mayor James Cowhey read a proclamation declaring Sept. 4, 2012 as “Matt Grevers Day” in Lake Forest.
In what he described as “12 years of hard swimming,” Grevers endeared himself to the community. But Tuesday night, the six-time Olympic medalist turned the tables and thanked his hometown for its ongoing support.
“Without you guys, I really couldn’t do it,” the two-time Olympian told the smiling crowd. “It’s a lot easier to do something when you have people backing you. This community has always backed me as much as a community can back an individual.”
Shaking her head in disbelief and smiling non-stop as Grevers spoke, Kris Lambert of Lake Forest later said she wouldn’t have missed the “Meet Matt” event for anything.
“He is a wonderful guy,” she said. “My three daughters graduated from this high school and he was always so awesome and so active and so supportive of everybody. He shines.”
LFHS pompon members Cheyenne Tilford and Katie Kissel, both juniors, were among the adoring crowd.
“It’s really exciting and inspiring to see someone go off and do something that great,” said Tilford, of Lake Forest.
Kissel, of Lake Bluff, agreed.
“I think it’s really great to have Matt Grevers representing Lake Forest High School. He’s a great role model for us — and a great swimmer,” Kissel said.
As fans waited in line to meet Grevers, get an autograph and take pictures, newcomers continued to stream in to catch a glimpse of a real Olympian. Some weren’t even from the LFHS community.
Brian and Jennifer Harbison of Mundelein left the volleyball game next door to see Grevers. Snapping a few photos, the Mundelein couple admitted they’d never met an Olympic athlete before.
“We watched the Olympics and saw him win gold,” Jennifer Harbison said.
Grevers’ appeal, they said, stretched beyond the boundaries of Lake Forest and overcame high school rivalry.
“It was awesome to have someone local represented in the Olympics,” Brian Harbison said.
Michael Loiacano walked in a half hour after the event began holding a camera in one hand and his daughter Sophie’s hand in the other. Sophie, 6, stood wrapped in a towel, her goggles over her wet hair, still wearing a wet bathing suit and flip-flops.
“We just came from the Little Scouts tryout,” the father said. “She wanted to meet Matt.”
Sophie, it turns out, has been swimming for two years at the local Winter Club and watched every minute of the London Olympics, including Grevers’ individual gold in the 100-meter backstroke.
With her eyes glued to Grevers on stage, it was tough for the young swimmer to pinpoint one favorite Olympic moment.
“I don’t know,” she said, glancing at Grevers. “Practically every part.”