Arizona's Chitwood Second To None
by Keyon Johnson
At first you hear the restless crowd, all anxious for the start of the race. You step onto the platform, and everything becomes eerily quiet. Then, BOOM! You hear the explosion of the starting pistol firing in the air. You plunge head first into the water faster than a hiccup, your heart beating so fast that it feels like King Kong is pounding on your chest. Your arms and legs are moving together in unison with one goal in mind - be the first one to get into the clear. Not until then does the nervousness exit your body.
This is the feeling that nearly every competitive swimmer experiences before, during and after a race. It's certainly no different for Cory Chitwood, who was a highly decorated high school swimmer (Youth World Championship and National Jr. Team member). Chitwood could have taken his talents anywhere he wanted, but chose to head out west to the Pac-10 and the University of Arizona in 2007.
"I came to the University of Arizona to receive a great education and to be on the greatest swim team in the world," Chitwood said.
Chitwood, from Union, Ky., has followed that plan as he has twice been named to the Pac-10 All-Academic team. He also won the NCAA title in the 200m backstroke in the 2009-10 season with a time of 1:39.29, which is a University of Arizona record.
"Last year winning the 200 back at the NCAAs was probably my biggest race to date," Chitwood said. "I remember going into my flip turn with two laps to go, I glanced over and knew that I was in a good place, a place where I really wanted to be. I knew that my game plan was working out well for me and I was in position where I knew I could get home faster than the other guys."
It wasn't easy getting to that point, he said. Chitwood was sidelined during his sophomore year in 2008-09 after he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.
"Last year was my comeback year and I was fortunate enough to get back into it and pull out the championship," Chitwood said. "I think that I got some good breaks. I was very lucky and fortunate; however it took a lot of hard work to get back to where I was previously and where I am now."
Chitwood's hard work during the season includes a rigorous swim regimen where he gets in the pool at 6 am for a two-hour swim on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He returns again at 2:00 p.m. for dry land work, which includes abs, push ups, pull ups, and a variety of other exercises that stabilize the body's core. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he adds an hour and a half of weight lifting, a swim workout for an hour to hour and a half, and then running stadiums to keep his legs as fit as possible. He executes a four-hour session on Saturdays, swimming from 8-10:30 and weight training for an hour and a half, pushing 200-225-pound sleds for about 50 yards.
The dedication he has displayed for swimming and his teammates earned Chitwood the title of team captain, a role that he takes pride in. He drives his teammates to be the best they can be, to go out every time and in every race and compete at 100 percent. His focus and desire to win is infectious throughout his teammates and coaching staff.
"When Cory was a freshman, he was a runner-up in the 200m backstroke at the NCAAs," Arizona head coach Frank Busch said. "He had shoulder surgery in his second year and then came back as a redshirt sophomore last year to win the event at the NCAAs. It is not very often that you have a freshman finish in the top three. For him to do that was awesome. Then to have surgery the next year and not swim, where he had to harness all of that energy and not lose focus, and to come back the next year and win the whole thing is pretty amazing.
"Cory is a great young man with a work ethic that is second to none and without question he's the leader of this team."