Patty Waldron knows swimming.
In her 28-plus years of coaching, Waldron has not only coached and developed more than 700 college swimmers, but she also has worked with 20 athletes that have gone onto Olympic trials and one Olympic star in gold-medalist Ricky Berens, a former South Mecklenburg star and 2008 Olympian.
After nearly three decades as a coach with SwimMAC, Waldron decided to take over the Charlotte Latin swimming program from Steve Howard in 2008.
"I've coached, worked with and developed a lot of great swimmers," said Waldron, who is also still the head masters coach at SwimMAC. "But Charlotte Latin swimming is also a big deal. Steve Howard created a dynasty here and I'm just trying to keep it going as best I can."
Howard, who won 665 matches, 33 conference titles and 19 state championships in his time at Latin, stepped down three years ago.
Since then, Waldron has won Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association conference titles for the boys' and the girls' in both years. Last year, both Hawks' teams were also close to winning the state title as the girls' and boys' finished third in the state.
"I really feel like we have a great shot at going all the way this year, especially the boys because they have so much coming back," Waldron said. "The girls will definitely be a contender as well."
The boys' team will be led by three-time All-American Collin Higgins, who was the state champion in the backstroke and individual medley last year. Higgins, who will swim at Virginia Tech next year, has a family history to live up to. His older brother, Charlie, and older sister, Caroline, were both standouts at Latin.
Junior Will Gardner (freestyle), sophomore Michael Chadwick (breaststroke) and sophomore Hayes McCullagh (fly/freestyle), a Charlotte Catholic transfer, are also standouts in their respective events.
On the girls' side, Latin looks nearly as strong, led by Lindsay Bosek, the state champion in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle last year. Joining Bosek at the top of her team are sophomore Ashley Dyke (breaststroke/IM), senior Maggie Gardner (fly) and freshman Chapman Hughes (fly, IM).
Waldron hopes that she can lead her team to the top as she enters her third season at Latin.
"I've coached swimming for 25 years, but not a day of high school (swimming) before I came to Latin," Waldron said. "So, overall, it's something I'm still getting used to, still working on. But I think we are going to be pretty good this year, again."