Charlotte Latin senior swims on through injuries
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Tuesday, Dec. 03, 2013

Charlotte Latin senior swims on through injuries

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/27/16/46/1kSHwJ.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA
    Charlotte Latin swim coach Patty Waldron describes senior Chapman Hughes, center, as a “firecracker.” Waldron said Hughes brings energy to the Hawks’ team.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/27/16/46/12mOqM.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA
    Charlotte Latin senior swimmer Chapman Hughes has overcome scoliosis and other injuries to keep competing. She hopes to lead her team to a high finish at the NCISAA 3A state championships.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/27/16/46/1imoTP.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA
    Charlotte Latin senior swimmer Chapman Hughes has overcome scoliosis and other injuries to keep competing. She hopes to lead her team to a high finish at the NCISAA 3A state championships.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/27/16/46/1tcbiT.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA
    Charlotte Latin senior swimmer Chapman Hughes has finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke event each of the past three NCISAA 3A state meets. She wants to win the event this year.
  • Others to watch Lauren Rhodes, Nicole Emery and Elsa Welshofer, Charlotte Catholic, Srs.: These three swimmers are defending N.C. 3A state champions in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle (Rhodes), 200-yard individual medley (Emery) and 100-yard butterfly (Welshofer). Maria Sheridan and Christine Sullivan, Charlotte Catholic, Srs.: Sheridan was a member of the 3A state champion 200- and 400-yard relay teams and finished second in the 100-yard butterfly. Sullivan finished second in the 500 free. The Cougars have won 12 straight state championships and move up to 4A this season. Alexandra Martelle, South Mecklenburg, Sr.: Defending 4A 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley state champion recently signed to swim at Arizona. Mary Weinstein, Providence High, Jr.: Strong breaststroker finished 12th in the 200-yard IM and 11th in the 100 breaststroke at last year’s NCHSAA 4A meet. Junior teammate Catherine Maxey finished seventh in the 100 butterfly and ninth in the 200 freestyle. Hope Dragelin, Charlotte Latin, Jr.: Hawk finished second in the 100-yard butterfly and fourth in the 500-yard freestyle at last season’s NCISAA 3A meet.

It would have been easy for Chapman Hughes to quit swimming.

It would have made sense when scoliosis forced her to wear a back brace when she was younger. Or when she missed four months of training during her eighth grade year because of painful inflammation around her collarbone.

It would have been easy to quit last season when she missed another month and a half when the pain around her collarbone came back.

“People often call me crazy,” Hughes said. “Instead of seeing those (injuries) as anchors and trying to hold me down, I try to use them as reasons to work harder ... to show everyone I’m the swimmer I want to be.”

Hughes, 17, is still swimming, competing in the early part of her senior season on the Charlotte Latin swim team. She’s aiming for individual state championships at the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state meet in February.

Last month, she officially committed to swim at Columbia University next year.

“She has done an incredible amount of therapy just to stay in the game,” head coach Patty Waldron said. “It hasn’t always been a bed of roses. Some people kind of have a smooth path to where they’ve gotten, but she’s had to scrap and stay in the game and it’s because she has this positive energy and she’s got this focus for what she wants and the drive to do it.”

Hughes started swimming when she was 6 years old. Her parents had her try other sports like dance and soccer, but she just wanted to swim.

She said she was a shy kid and enjoyed the quiet and the solitude of swimming in a lane by herself.

“I love how you get some downtime for yourself but your friends are also there,” she said. “For some introverts, that’s really nice.”

Hughes was diagnosed with scoliosis in fourth grade. She wore a back brace until she was in the eighth grade. One of the places she didn’t have to wear it was when she was in the pool.

Scoliosis and the brace kept muscles in her back and abdomen from developing as well. She had to put in time outside of the pool working out and in physical therapy building those muscles that many other swimmers naturally develop.

“For me it was a reason to push harder and go faster and lift more weights,” Hughes said. “It’s made me focus on the smaller aspects of swimming that you see other swimmers forget about. Instead of being a hindrance it’s actually really propelled me forward.”

When the back brace came off, another injury developed. The area around her collarbone became inflamed. She tried to swim through the pain, but eventually had to spend four months out of the pool.

A doctor told her that if she wasn’t careful and didn’t take care of the injury, she would have to stop swimming.

“It was actually pretty traumatic,” she said. “That made me work really hard when I was (dry land) kicking and really hard when I was running.”

When she got back in the pool, she had one of her best meets at the 2011 N.C. 14U Swimming Championships, cutting about six seconds off her 200-yard backstroke time (2:09.76) and finishing ninth.

Hughes joined the Charlotte Latin swim team as a freshman. Waldron said Hughes brings energy to the team at meets. Even though Hughes normally practices with her club, SwimMAC, instead of with the team – a common practice for year-round swimmers – Waldron said Hughes has a good bond with her teammates.

“With her, her effervescence just kind of takes over,” Waldron said. “She’s one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. She’ll just leave a mark on you, a real positive mark.”

Hughes isn’t shy anymore. Swimming made her an extrovert, she said.

“The best word to describe her is firecracker,” Waldron said. “When you think about a firecracker, there’s surprise to it, there’s loudness to it, there’s uniqueness to it and that’s kind of what Chapman brings to the team, in a good way.”

As a freshman, Hughes finished ninth in the 100-yard butterfly (1:00.84) and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke (1:01.99) at the NCISAA 3A state meet.

She had the same finish in both events her sophomore season, swimming similar times.

She finished fourth again in the 100-yard backstroke last season as a junior with a time of 1:01.45. She swam the 200-yard individual medley instead of the butterfly that meet and finished fifth with a time of 2:16.46.

That was after missing a month and a half of pool training starting in December because the inflammation around her collarbone flared up.

This year, she’s hoping to place even higher.

“I want to go in there and absolutely just dominate in the pool,” Hughes said. “I would love to win my 100 backstroke at states.”

Regardless of how she finishes, Hughes is happy to still be swimming and looks forward to continuing her career at Columbia. The sport is something she said she “couldn’t envision my life without.”

That is why she pushed through the injuries and the extra workouts to keep competing.

“Nothing’s easy in life. If life was easy everyone would just be cruising and it would be a great time,” she said. “When you love something as much as I love to swim, you’re going to fight to do it. You’re going to fight to get it back.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe

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