By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Morgan Bullock appreciates the opportunity she’d had to follow her older sister Jordan through the ranks of elite swimming.
She watched the last four years as Jordan piled up five individual school records and a number of all-state finishes, and took note how hard her sister worked. It made Morgan want to train just as much so she too could do her best.
Then, in Bullock's first high school meet on the first night of this season, Morgan broke two of Jordan’s records. And she would’ve broken the news to her older sister, if someone else hadn’t gotten to Jordan first.
After all, it was a little bittersweet for Morgan – but probably not entirely unexpected given her incredible talent and impressive performances before she even reached high school.
“My sister worked so hard to get all of hers, and I come in and I swim my hardest, and I get two of her records,” Bullock said. “She heard it from the grapevine, from somebody else, before I told her. But once I called her and told her, she said ‘Good job,’ and that she loves me. I think she kinda saw it coming.”
Those in the west Michigan swim scene have watched the Bullock sisters rise among their classmates for a while. Jordan was part of seven team records total and earned nine all-state selections before graduating this spring and joining the team at Bowling Green.
And now comes Morgan, a phenom like her sister but a few steps ahead – in part because of Jordan's guidance as the two were growing up.
Morgan receives a Second Half High 5 after winning the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly at the Oct. 13 MISCA Meet at Eastern Michigan University. Both of her times – 1:51.97 in the 200 and 56.37 seconds in the butterfly – would’ve placed at last season's MHSAA Division 1 Final; her 200 time third and her butterfly time fifth, just behind Jordan’s finish. It was only the second time this season Bullock had swam the 200 – and the finish stunned her a little because she remembers watching close the times from Jordan's Finals race the season before.
“I expected to go 1:53 or something like that, but then I saw it on the board and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that felt really good,’” said Bullock, who attends Zeeland West (West and East compete together in swimming and diving).
Morgan’s opening-night broken records came in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles. Her school-record time in the 50 is 24.18 seconds, and her 100 time is 52.78. Her butterfly time already qualifies for All-America recognition, and she’s swam the backstroke in 59.28, the 500 freestyle in 5:11 and the 200 individual medley in 2:11.9.
That backstroke time would’ve placed her 11th in Division 1 last season, her 50 free time eighth, her 100 free time sixth, and her 500 and 200 IM times both 15th.
Jordan may be gone, and she and Morgan different in ways. But no doubt, others have made and will continue to make comparisons now the younger has replaced the older on Zeeland's team.
“She’s watched and modeled her sister the last four years, … and she’s gotten into it a little bit quicker than her sister did,” Zeeland coach Mike Torrey said. “She’s got a great feel for the water, great position, a great kick. They’re both the same height and very strong.”
The Bullock sisters were taking swim lessons as kids at a nearby pool when their grandmother noticed a story about an area swimmer in the newspaper and suggested to their mother than the girls make that their sport. So they gave it a try, Jordan first and then Morgan joining her when the latter was 7. At 9, Morgan got serious about the sport.
The sisters combined for some outstanding finishes at this summer’s Michigan Swimming Open Long Course State Championships at Calvin College, which included competitors up to 19 years old. After winning four events and placing second in a fifth at the 14-and-under event, Bullock took third in the butterfly, seventh in the 100 freestyle, 14th in the 50 freestyle and swam on three relays that finished among the top six. Jordan swam on two of those relays as well and took eighth in the 100 and 200 butterfly races (five spots behind her sister in the 100).
Morgan’s favorite stroke is the butterfly, but she wouldn’t be this far along with Jordan. When she was younger, Morgan hated the butterfly. But Torrey suggested Jordan teach it to her little sister, and so she did – including how to keep her legs straight and the proper form to kick.
Morgan thinks the individual medley team record might be her next to take. Morgan’s time is only about a second off Jordan’s all-time team best. Morgan also is about a second off the team’s backstroke record.
Unlike last time, when those records fall, Morgan might get the chance to be the first to let her sister know. And with Morgan already an MHSAA title contender, there should be plenty of highlights to mention over the next four years.
Not that the two discuss swimming much these days when they get a chance to catch up. They might talk for a minute about their last meets, but “we don’t talk about it for fun,” Morgan said.
But the time is soon coming when Bullock will have a chance to pass some of her sister's lessons and guidance forward.
She is happy to blend in among the underclassmen. But she could take on more of a leadership spot next fall, with a number of friends currently in eighth grade expected to join the team.
“I can help them, and they look up to me,” Bullock said. “I’ll be there for them, do anything for them.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Morgan Bullock swims the butterfly during a meet this summer. (Middle) Morgan Bullock, left, and her older sister Jordan, both own spots in the Zeeland record book. (Photos courtesy of the Bullock family.)