"We did some studies on them," he says. "Looked at them underwater and compared them to other suits. The water and air flow in and flow right out. No bagginess. I think it's the fastest suit in the world."
In searching for an edge, Patton has not overlooked the University of Iowa Hospital, the largest school-owned teaching hospital in the world. The cardiology department checks his swimmers before, during and after the season.
And at the school's Hydraulics Research East Annex, across the Iowa River from the main campus, Patton and Dr. Edmund Burke, who is working at Iowa on a grant from the National Institutes of Health, have latched on to an environmental flume usually used for hydraulic tests. They convinced the school to put in a glass wall and make some other adjustments so that Hawkeye swimmers can climb into the 60-foot-long tank and battle against currents flowing at as much as 8� feet per second, sort of like salmon swimming upstream to spawn. While a swimmer struggles to stay in the same place in the flume—in front of the glass, Patton hopes—various tests and movies can be made to help analyze his stroke and position in the water.
"Since I've come to Iowa I've felt that we could duplicate here, with our swimmers, what the East Germans and Russians are doing," says Patton. "Physiological testing, psychology testing and the feeding of this information into computers and getting readouts."
Patton is nothing if not a big thinker. "When I'm 60 years old I hope that I'll be looked upon as one of the top coaches in the world"—and with the help of science, he just might reach that goal. Certainly the employment of a psychological coach is already paying off.
Some of the mental training has even rubbed off on Patton, who sits in on all of Gauron's sessions. "It's sort of weird," says sophomore freestyler Scott Wisner. "When I first met Coach Patton he would be pacing up and down the pool deck at meets. And then for Indiana, our first meet of the year and the biggest of his career, he was real calm and confident. It was a real turnabout."
Gauron himself seems to be the sort of fellow who could amble around the battlements of a besieged fort, making small talk with the soldiers while shells fall all about them. Before the Iowa-Iowa State meet one of his swimmers went to him and said, "I wanted to come over and sit next to our center of calmness."
But Gauron is human. His wife Pat reports that he is a maniac at Hawkeye basketball games, so much so that a friend bought him a scorebook to keep him busy and calm him down.