6 Months After Serious Car Accident, Matthew Elliott Makes Return at CIF State Champs

by Riley Overend 3

May 14th, 2023 High School, News

Six months after suffering life-threatening injuries in a serious car accident last November on his way to swim practice, Soquel senior Matthew Elliott returned to the CIF State Championship finals on Saturday for his last high school meet.

The Cal commit ended up missing the 50 free A-final by just .01 seconds, but he had already proved to himself that he was back last week when he clocked a 20.24 in the Central Coast Section Championship prelims. That time was just .14 seconds off Elliott’s best mark from last season — a 20.10 that earned him a runner-up finish as a junior at the CIF State meet — and it was the product of only a few months of training.

“Slightly disappointed in the performance, but mostly can’t be mad,” Elliott said after tying for third place in the 50 free consolation final. “I’m here, swimming — it’s awesome. I think I’m back where I was pretty much, and now I just need to continue to improve.”

Elliott has been confident about his recovery since he was still bedridden in the hospital.

Severe facial fractures prevented him from speaking with family and friends for days after his first surgery because he couldn’t breathe out of his nose or mouth, with his jaw wired shut and a tracheostomy tube placed into his windpipe instead. But when doctors removed the tube during his second surgery and he could talk freely again, he was already plotting a premature comeback.

“After the accident, I think the first thing I said was, ‘I want to make Winter Juniors next month,’ four or five weeks after surgery,” Elliott recalled.

Elliott’s recovery process was gradual, and despite his wishes, it did not include an appearance at Winter Juniors a month later. The removal of the tracheostomy tube during his second surgery left behind a hole in his lower neck that he had to cover with gauze anytime he wanted to talk for a few weeks. When the wound closed and Elliott could return to the pool again, he began by just running up and down the shallow lanes for a few weeks.

He transitioned to hitting yardage marks during practice – 1,000 yards at first, then 2,000. In February, following a bout with COVID-19 the month prior, Elliott resumed his full training routine. All the while, he had the support of his community, which raised over $30,000 with a GoFundMe campaign to aid his recovery.

Even before his car accident, Elliott had planned to take a gap year and enroll at Cal in the fall of 2024.

“It gives me a chance to get back where I was before the accident, because I feel like I was on track to be top three at Juniors in December,” said Elliott, who placed fifth in the 50 free at the 2021 Winter Junior Championship West meet with a lifetime best of 19.89.

“It was an unfortunate event, for sure, but I don’t think it was detrimental to my swimming,” Elliott said. “I think I’ll be back there pretty soon. I got lucky and I’m glad to be back in the pool.”

This story was originally published Saturday, May 13.

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SoCal Swammer
4 months ago

Rooting for you kid!!!

4 months ago

slay matty

4 months ago


About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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