Charlotte Latin swim coach Patty Waldron has been associated with the sport for more than 40 years and seen first-hand the dedication required to be a top-level performer. Waldron said she often ponders a simple question concerning the amount of time elite swimmers train.
“The sport of swimming is very unique,” Waldron said. “I have often wondered in my 42-year association with the sport: Does swimming attract dedicated, hard-working people, or does the sport have the influence to make someone a dedicated, hard-working person?”
Michael Chadwick’s commitment to the sport shows both sides of Waldron’s conundrum.
Chadwick, a Hawks senior, said friends rarely ask him to hang out during the week anymore. They know where he’ll be.
For the past two years, Chadwick’s arrived at the SwimMAC facility on Latin’s campus early enough to be ready for his 5 a.m. workout. He’ll typically swim until 6:30, eat breakfast and finish homework before attending school. Once school’s dismissed, Chadwick returns to the pool at 3:30 p.m. for another three-plus-hour training session.
“Swimming’s a part of who Michael is, and therefore he really doesn’t have to handle it,” Waldron said. “He thrives on the challenges that the sport presents.”
Even if that means Chadwick isn’t hanging out with friends because he can’t afford to get sick. Or if it means taking just three weeks off in August to rest, or knowing that every January he’ll begin to suffer from exhaustion because of the strenuous training he puts in over the holidays.
But it’s all worth it to Chadwick.
He recently signed a National Letter of Intent from the University of Missouri after also considering offers from N.C. State, Auburn and North Carolina. But while his future’s bright, Chadwick’s prowess in the pool wasn’t always a foregone conclusion.
As a young swimmer, Chadwick struggled with his diving, to the point coaches would often ridicule him, he said. After ascending to the top of a division, he’d inevitably enter a higher division and have to again work his way to the top.
“I can honestly say I never really knew that I’d be a good swimmer,” Chadwick said. “My coaches always said I had potential and if I stuck with it, I could be good if I worked at it. I give a lot of credit for my success to my coaches.”
Chadwick said one coach in particular, SwimMAC instructor James Wike, is the reason he’s going to Missouri next year.
Chadwick shaved more than a 1.5 seconds off his breaststroke time and, as a result, qualified for a national competition last summer. He said after those performances, Wike called Missouri assistant coach Mark Gangloff, a former two-time Olympian.
Gangloff, who previously worked at SwimMAC, was impressed and flew to meet Chadwick and his family. Gangloff offered a scholarship and, after an official visit one week later, Chadwick knew Missouri was the ideal fit for him.
“The coaching staff, with (head coach Greg) Rhodenbach, is top of the line,” Chadwick said. “He’s an amazing swimmer himself, and I could really relate to him.
“Plus, they have one of the top facilities in all of the country, all of my teammates were really nice. I just knew it was right for me.”
Waldron said once Chadwick – who’s grown four inches since last year and now is a wiry 6 foot 6 – fills into his body, he’ll be at his best.
“(Michael) will just continue to get faster as he continues to get physically stronger,” Waldron said. “Michael’s best swimming will happen in college, making him a college coach’s dream.”
Before getting to Missouri, Chadwick said he first has some unfinished business to take care of at Charlotte Latin.
Last season, Chadwick finished with two individual state championships – in the 200 individual medley and the 200 medley relay – but Latin finished second in the team competition. Chadwick hopes to improve upon that this season.
“I want to have a breakout season,” Chadwick said. “I don’t want to lose a race all year, and I want to drop three or four seconds off each event. And I want to help lead us to the team title.”
The Hawks only graduated three seniors from last season, Chadwick said, and they have a group of talented freshmen that’s capable of helping the team achieve its goal. Especially with Chadwick leading the way.
“(Chadwick’s) attitude is supportive, gracious and humble, even,” said Hawks assistant coach Ken Collins. “Yet he dominates in the pool. When he starts in the pool, the other kids are looking at him and suddenly he’s three quarters down the other end.
“You can see the (other) kids’ jaws drop. He knows he’s the best swimmer on our team, but he remains very calm, very humble and is so supportive of everyone. It’s refreshing to watch.”
Waldron added: “Michael’s a caring individual. That’s who he is and how he was raised. He’s very genuine. I think because he’s a humble person his athletic sense gives him a great sense of team.”
Chadwick comes from an athletic family. His father, the Rev. David Chadwick Sr., played basketball at the University of North Carolina and is the pastor at Forest Hill Church. His brother, David Jr., starred on the basketball court at Latin and played two seasons at Rice University before transferring to Valparaiso (Ind).
“My brother’s my role model, and I do try to emulate him in the pool,” Chadwick said. “My dad was an amazing athlete at Chapel Hill. I notice how much athletics mean to my dad and my brother, and it motivates me.
“And my faith helps me because it’s easy to get sidelined and off the path I’ve set for myself. If I didn’t have my faith, I could easily go from working hard in the pool to going out every weekend and (ruining) all the hard work.”
Collins added: “He’s made a lot of sacrifices, and those are hard decisions, and those times he’s missing being a high-schooler are times he’ll never get back.”
With his lanky frame and family’s sports background, he said people constantly ask if he, too, is a basketball player.
“I tell them, ‘No, I’m just a swimmer,’” Chadwick said.
In fact, he’s a swimmer with a great deal of potential, which ultimately could make him the best-known member of his athletic family if he continues to grow and build muscle, something he and Waldron see happening.
Chadwick said his ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics, the highest level for amateur swimming. Waldron’s confident Chadwick can become one of the country’s best swimmers before all is said and done.
“Michael is a real talent,” Waldron said. “He slides through the water with a God-given talent.”
Chadwick also realizes his best swimming is ahead of him.
“I’m excited for Missouri and for having the chance to swim at the next level,” Chadwick said. “I do miss some things, but I’ve chosen this path and it’s where I want to be.
“Besides, if I continue to grow and add 50 pounds of muscle, we’ll see what I can really do.”