Swimming star’s passion molds him into the person he is today


Abigail Yagi, Staff Writer

“Wings up!” Michael Petrides shouts, raising his arms to look like wings, and the whole team laughs right before he walks off to win his 200 Yard IM race.

The call has become his battle cry, a way for Petrides to motivate his teammates just before a race. 

Although the swimmer is ranked first in the state and just signed at University of California-Berkeley, Mid Pacific swimming and diving coach, Kaz Yoshiwara said Petrides is one of the few elite athletes he’s ever come across, and he wanted to push him out of his comfort zone.

“Usually they [elite athletes] stay in a bubble somewhat and within their club team,” said Yoshiwara. “I’ve tried to get him to reach out to other kids on our team. Trying to let him make an impact beyond swimming and leave more of a legacy than ‘Oh, he’s just that fast kid’.”

Petrides received an athletic scholarship to University of California-Berkeley after a season where he ranked 1st in the state and 18th in the NCAA Swimming Recruits in the Boys High School Class of 2019, according to swimswam.com. At Swimming and Diving state championships on Feb. 8-9, Petrides placed first in the Boys 200 Yard Freestyle and the Boys 500 Yard Freestyle. Still, college swimming will be a whole new beast for this owl. 

The Cal commit said he did not always see swimming in his future. Petrides planned on quitting when he turned 12 but his older sister convinced him not to. Petrides said he decided to continue because he trusted her and wanted to follow in her footsteps, as she is currently a sophomore swimming at Washington State University. The senior’s mother , Martha Petrides, said she and her husband always knew Michael would be a true competitor in swimming.

“Michael was always competitive from the get go,” said Petrides. “We knew from the beginning that Michael could be somebody in this sport. That he could go far.”

The senior discovered his passion for the sport when he was around 13 years of age. He said traveling with his team for the first time that year is what made the sport fun.

“I used to really really hate swimming, and then one swim meet I had the option to travel with the team and that aspect of competing with your friends and all your teammates just made me happy,” said Petrides.

Petrides’ won the 200 individual medley and the 100 freestyle at the state championships in 2018, but swimming in college is going to be a new experience with higher levels of competition. He said he cannot wait to swim in college because it is more team oriented.

“I get to race people that are so dominant in their respective stroke. I get to have completely new training and really driven practices that are specific to what I swim. The whole nine yards,” said Petrides.

Petrides said he looked at numerous schools in June and had trouble narrowing it down to the top five to take his official visits. The swimmer said everywhere he went he felt like like they had an amazing program but once he visited Berkeley, it felt like the fit.

“When the coach told me the offer I was very surprised just from the name of the school and the prestige,” said Petrides. “It’s probably one of the best moments of my life thus far. I couldn’t believe it could actually happen.”

The soon to be bear did not have the skills to be a champion naturally. Making sacrifices like not hanging out with friends or not surfing, and going to practice the next morning instead, resulted in better meet times, making it all worth it. Martha Petrides said that swimming has defined who Michael is in amazing ways.

“It opened up doors that would’ve never been opened otherwise,” said the mom. “It kept him focused, hardworking. It’s taught him time management, and humility.”

It’s a rainy afternoon at Punahou, the water seeping through the tarp covering the bleachers, but Petrides has a smile on his face, playing with a muscle massage gun, laughing with his teammates. Julian Kiyabu, a fellow senior and teammate of Michael, said although he’s the highest performer in the state, he still makes swimming fun.

“Michael taught me how to enjoy something while still having goals and being determined,” said Kiyabu.

When asked who pushed Michael to become a better swimmer, Martha Petrides said it was honestly Michael who pushed himself.

“He has that internal drive. I think it’s an innate thing that he was born with,” said Petrides. “He has amazing coaches, supportive family, but I think it’s Michael.”