Halfway through UGA swim career, Woods Charter alum Homovich enjoying the process

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/23/20

CHAPEL HILL — This spring, Maddie Homovich was a fish out of water.

Swimming is a year-round sport, and Homovich has embraced its grind for a decade. Since age 10, the Woods Charter alum …

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Halfway through UGA swim career, Woods Charter alum Homovich enjoying the process

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CHAPEL HILL — This spring, Maddie Homovich was a fish out of water.

Swimming is a year-round sport, and Homovich has embraced its grind for a decade. Since age 10, the Woods Charter alum guessed, she has never been out of the water for longer than two weeks, as she tackles practices, club seasons, national qualifiers, national events and more.

But 2020 changed that.

Thanks to North Carolina’s coronavirus-induced safety restrictions, Homovich couldn’t backstroke or freestyle or butterfly for two months. She held tight from late March until late May, when Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2 allowed pools, including the one she uses in Cary, to re-open under strict guidelines.

“It was definitely challenging, and kind of scary, just because I hadn’t ever done that,” Homovich said. “But I honestly think it was a very good thing for me, too: to mentally reset, be able to explore different things out of the water, stay safe and have fun doing it.”

A combination of that two-month refresher period and a full adjustment to the training, academic and personal schedules of a college student-athlete has Homovich, 20, ready to hit the ground running this fall at the University of Georgia, where she’s a junior on the varsity swimming and diving team.

“I’ve more so figured things out,” she said. “More than I did for the past year or two.”

Not like Homovich has struggled so far.

She’s made the Georgia and SEC academic honor rolls in all four of her completed semesters. Last season, she set new career-low times in four different events. And in February, she qualified for the NCAA Championships and earned an All-America nod for her 1:53.95 time in the 200-yard backstroke, which was also UGA’s sixth lowest time in program history for the event.

“I definitely made some improvements last year,” she conceded.

Homovich, originally from Pennsylvania, has been holding herself to high standards for years now.

She was the rare toddler who actually enjoyed the majority of her baths, and she started swimming at 4 years old. When the Homovichs moved south to Pittsboro, 7-year-old Maddie joined the North Carolina Aquatic Club, a team that practices at the Koury Natatorium on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.

Along with a few Roy Williams sightings — Homovich practiced directly across from the Smith Center — she made plenty of waves with NCAC, mostly for her distance races. Swimming World Magazine named a 13-year-old Homovich one of its swimmers of the month in April 2014, noting she swam the 400-meter freestyle event faster than Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky did at the same age.

“That was a long time ago,” Homovich said, laughing, “but that was a huge deal to me.”

At age 15, she moved up to Marlins of Raleigh, another top area club led by coach Paul Silver. Homovich logged plenty more accolades there, including a gold, silver and bronze medals in various national meets and a fifth-place finish at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Indianapolis. One recruiting site, CollegeSwimming.com, tabbed her as the No. 10 women’s swimming recruit in the country in 2018.

An interesting catch: despite all those accomplishments, Homovich’s name doesn’t appear once in the NCHSAA’s extensive 30-page swimming and diving record book.

She never swam in an officially sanctioned race, because Woods Charter fields neither a middle school nor high school swim team. But since Maddie and her family enjoyed the Chatham County school’s rigorous academics and small classes, she stayed put and worked exclusively as a club team swimmer.

She committed to Georgia over Florida and N.C. State at the end of her junior year. And when she arrived in Athens as a freshman to join Georgia’ roster in 2018, dual meets — when the entire Bulldogs team would face another in a head-to-head event — were “kind of odd,” she said.

“But it was fun and something that I never really experienced before,” Homovich said. “Plus, my club team (MOR) was pretty rigorous when it came to training, so that wasn’t as big of an adjustment.”

In March, Homovich was days aways from competing in the 2020 NCAA Championships — hosted on Georgia’s campus — before COVID-19 delayed and canceled the end of her second season.

She spent her summer at home, substituting the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials that she’d qualified for with nightly Jeopardy! viewings with her family and, on one occasion, swimming laps in Jordan Lake.

Now, Homovich is back in Athens for her junior year, taking classes for her risk management and insurance/management information systems double major and prepping for the Bulldogs’ abbreviated 2020-21 season, which will run from Oct. 1 to Jan. 25. And the Woods Charter graduate is ready to go.

“I’m pretty excited about where I’m headed now,” Homovich said.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.



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