Olympics and Yale Were Dreams For 'Small and Skinny' Cahalan
Mike Cahalan had always wanted to go to Yale. He had dreamed of being in the Olympics.
When he was 12, Cahalan was pitching for a Little League team that drew from an area with a 30-mile radius. But the rules forbid a radium in excess of ten miles. So the team was broken up, and since he had nothing else to do that summer, Cahalan started swimming.
"I was small and skinny, but they let me stay on because my brother was the star of the team," Cahalan recalled yesterday. But he didn't swim in a single meet for the country club team until little Mike Cadden, now a standout at Yale, left town the day of one of the last meets. Cahalan was entered and beat the team's number two man in the freestyle.
Nevertheless, he spent the next summer stuck in the backstroke until he finally got his chance at age 14. Cahalan started breaking his brother's records in the 50-free, and soon he was doing the Washington-New York AAU circuit on weekends, bringing back eight medals at a time. It was your basic success story.
He began to make up a timetable for the Olympics, figuring out how fast he could bring down his times in the sprints. During the summer before his senior year at Mercersburg Academy, he put in three workouts daily, turning in 14,000 meters a day.
Finally the big meet in the East came, and Cahalan was leading in the 100-free finals. But at 75 yards, three others went by him, and Cahalan decided he could do without the Olympics.
It was at about the same time that he decided he could also do without Yale. "I got the runaround down there when I went for an interview," he said. "This guy told me." 'Well, you know, there are a lot of good swimmers who want to come here.' Instead of getting attention from head coach Phil Moriarty, he was funneled into the hands of an assistant.
Cahalan had just come from an interview at Harvard. Head coach Bill Brooks had driven into town on a moment's notice to talk to him for two hours. Cahalan never applied to Yale.
At Harvard, he has set a 50-free record and helped establish two relay marks. As a sophomore he was the Eastern champion in the 50-free. The past two years he has captained the Crimson. Cahalan even introduced Rufus Peebles to the Adams House pool late one night last spring.
His goal now-besides beating Penn. Princeton, and Yale-is to win the Easterns again and then go to the Nationals and beat Tennessee's Dave Edgar. the best in the nation by most people's standards.
"I can convince myself that I can beat him," Cahalan said. "Once you believe that, you can do it. You can't think you're going to be second; it doesn't do you any good"
Besides beating Edgar, Cahalan wants to go to medical school. He's applied to 13, and today he has an interview at Harvard. "I'm sure I'll get in some place," he said.
Cahalan, who was recently chosen as a class agent, has done well academically, but isn't sure whether or not med schools are interested in "your basic student-athlete."
He is not lukewarm about his desire to go. "I love working in labs and doing research," Cahalan asserted. "I really want to go to med school, and I really want to be a doctor."
When he gets through with the interview and exams, Cahalan has to fly home for his brother Tom's wedding. When his sister got married not too long ago, Cahalan irritated his mother with hair a bit over his ears. Yesterday during the conversation, his mother called with some news. He was scheduled to arrive in Harrisburg at 2:30 p.m., and his mother had arranged a 3:20 p.m. appointment at the barber shop.