DREAMING BIG: Northbrook's Montero Perez Making Most of a Better Life
GADIEL MONTERO PEREZ’S FAMILY MOVED TO THE UNITED STATES FROM CUBA FOUR YEARS AGO TO GIVE HIM AND HIS OLDER BROTHER AN OPPORTUNITY AT A BETTER LIFE.
The Northbrook junior swimmer has made the most of it so far.
In two years, Montero Perez has broken five Northbrook records – 50 freestyle (22.61 seconds), 100 fly (54.76), 100 freestyle (49.85), 100 backstroke (54.16), 200 free relay (1:47.94) - many of which were 20-30 years old.
“What motivates me are my parents,” Montero Perez said. “For them, the ambition of being better. They encourage me to keep going and they lift me up. In swimming, I want to be the best one.”
Northbrook coach Amanda Robinson said Montero Perez has an integrity and maturity beyond his years.
“He’s very coachable and open-minded, which is needed to succeed in any sport,” Robinson said. “He has a lot of grit and doesn’t shy away from challenges, which has paid off in the classroom and the pool.
“He is one of the hardest working student-athletes that I guarantee Northbrook has ever seen.”
Montero Perez has been swimming since he was five years old, when he saw his older brother doing it.
“It’s about feeling free in the water,” he said.
While he has found home in the pool, Montero Perez is still acclimating to his home out of it.
He said his biggest growth in adjusting to the U.S. is understanding different points of view. In Robinson, Montero-Perez said he has found a second mother whom he can confide in and trust in athletics and his personal life.
It’s relationships like these that Robinson does not take for granted as she strives to build a program.
“I always make it a point to be the type of coach my athletes feel comfortable confiding in,” she said. “It is also my hope that this keeps my swimmers coming back year after year. Historically, Northbrook swimming has had a very high percentage of swimmer turnover, and I’m doing my best to try to lower that percentage and to keep our team growing.”
Montero Perez wants to swim in college. He is conscientious about getting better, especially coming off a sophomore season stunted by elbow injuries.
“Last year, I didn’t really swim a whole lot because of COVID and everything,” he said. “I’ve been swimming a lot more, and I’ll be even better. My technique has improved the most, as far as how I move through the water. I’m using my arms more.”
He’s also doing his part academically.
Montero Perez is a member of the National Honor Society. In August, he joined FFA and takes pride in taking care of his lamb, Freya, named after the goddess in the God of War video game.
“It’s really cool, but challenging,” he said. “I want to be a vet, so it was something I wanted to do. If I do something, I want to give it my all. I want to be proud of what I do and what I will become.”