It wasn’t as if Patty Waldron needed a boost of confidence or something.
As a longtime coach with internationally known SwimMAC Carolina, Waldron had been a part of 57 championships, and she won four Atlantic Coast Conference titles as a competitor at the University of North Carolina in the 1980s.
So Waldron, now in her fifth season as the coach at Charlotte Latin, knows all about winning titles.
But even for a swimming veteran such as Waldron, a chance encounter with Hawks senior Michael Chadwick in a parking lot last August had a way of putting her at ease.
“Michael just looked at me and said, ‘Coach Patty, this is the year. This is it,’” Waldron recalled. “I said, ‘I think you’re right.’
“After that, we just kind of looked at each other and shook our heads. We both knew.”
“It starts with a dream,” she said.
On Feb. 18, the dream became a reality, as the Hawks boys team motored past the competition to win the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
The 6-foot-6 Chadwick and fellow senior Hayes McCullagh were central figures in the title haul, as they combined to contribute 80 points to Charlotte Latin’s winning team total of 286 and provide a solid margin over runner-up Cary Academy (231).
Chadwick, a University of Missouri signee, set a state record in the 100-yard breaststroke (57.51 seconds) and also took home gold in the 200 individual medley (1 minute, 53.22 seconds).
For the second consecutive season, McCullagh, who will swim for Navy, won state crowns in the 200 freestyle (1:42.80) and the 100 butterfly (50.62).
Chadwick and McCullagh also swam on a pair of winning relay teams. However, Waldron said the championship wouldn’t have been possible without contributions from a number of Hawks.
“We had a transfer, Madison Jaulin, who came in from Butler,” Waldron said. “He’s a very good year-round swimmer. You’ve already got your centerpieces in McCullagh and Chadwick. Then we got three very talented freshmen – one year-round guy, James Hardy, and then two seasonal guys Jackson Dickey (and James Rattaree).
“It was a neat blend. One of our seniors, Chuma Eruchalu, scored two 12th-places this year in the 50 and the 100 free and (contributed to) a seventh-place (finish) in the 200 free relay. Then Madison got second in the 200 IM and he was third in the 500 free.”
Chadwick and McCullagh teamed with Jaulin and Dickey to win the 200 medley relay (1:38.83). Chadwick and McCullagh also joined Dickey and Hardy on the first-place 400 freestyle relay (3:17.84).
“I kind of knew at the beginning of the year that we had something special going, but they had to be prepared and go do it that day,” Waldron said. “It all boiled down to making no mistakes. I told the kids, ‘It’s time to be your best and do your best.’ That was kind of the theme of our championship season – the conference meet and the (state) meet.
“It was neat. They were thrilled. Just to see them smile like that, it was like, ‘Yes.’”
For the Hawks, this year’s title run was a salve for last season’s second-place finish at the state meet. And now that they’ve tasted the sweet nectar of victory at independent high school’s highest level, Waldron believes her swimmers’ appetites will crave even more.
“When we lose Michael and Hayes to graduation – woo! – that’s a big challenge,” Waldron said. “But when you look at what the freshmen did, and also look at the freshmen who are coming in next year, we’ll be strong again. I’m not saying that we’ll (win the state title) again, but we’re going to be up there. We’re going to be in contention.
“We’re going to be a team that people look at and say, ‘Hmmmm, they’re pretty good!’”