Eggleston signs with Illinois

Dec. 26, 2012 @ 09:33 PM

In many ways, Chandler Eggleston is a lot like his classmates at Southwest Guilford. He occasionally wants to do the things, like go to football and basketball games, that his peers do without a second thought.

But for years Eggleston has decided to go a different route. It is a route of hard work that has led him to become one of the top gymnasts his age in the country and a recent signee with the University of Illinois, the reigning NCAA Division I national champion and preseason No. 1.

“I knew I wanted to do it in college ever since I got to high school,” says Eggleston, the son of Calvin and Peggy. “So, I knew I couldn’t just give up, because I knew I was too good to just give up. There are some days that don’t go your way ... but I liked it too much to give it up. I’m always learning something new. So, it never gets boring.”

Eggleston was hooked from the first time he tried gymnastics at a friend’s birthday party at High Point Gymnastics when he was 7 or 8 years old. Aside from about a year off during middle school, following an injury, from then on he’s continued to grow and improve as he’s pushed himself to compete at the highest levels, particularly into high school when he qualified for the finals in his first nationals as a ninth-grader.

“I guess I liked it so much that my parents started putting me in lessons, and it just took off from there,” Eggleston says. “I liked it so much that I couldn’t get away from it. ... It started getting on TV more and more, and I’d watch it and I wanted to be like those people. And when the Olympics would come on, it was so cool. So, I guess that and as I got to the higher levels, that motivated me.”

Over the last two years, Eggleston, who competes in the all-around with a focus on floor, vault, high bar and parallel bars, has placed in the top 3 six times in the Junior Olympic National Championships and U.S. Visa Championships — including winning gold for vault (16-18) in the 2012 U.S. Visa Championships as well as for floor exercise (14-15) in the 2011 Junior Olympic National Championships.

“It’s just their discipline and willingness to work on new skills that has allowed them to achieve higher standards,” says Jim Shaw, boys team coach at High Point Gymnastics, of Eggleston and his classmate and fellow gymnast Christian McSwain, who also recently signed with Penn State. “Both of them are very good athletes. And, like all athletes, they learn at different rates.

“Christian excelled on pommel horse; Chandler excelled on floor and vault. It kind of goes back-and-forth. Once one learns, then they help each other and thrive on each other, just learning new skills. Chandler has had more success because he excelled on floor and vault at a little faster pace and reached a higher level, but Christian’s right there too.”

Following his strong summer, Eggleston heard from a number of top-tier programs and narrowed his choices to five — Illinois, Stanford, Michigan, Oklahoma and Minnesota — and further trimmed them to Illinois and Stanford. It was a tough choice between the two, considering the stature of both schools and gymnastics programs, but he eventually chose the Illini for many of the same reasons he’s stuck with gymnastics over the years.

“Just the team and the coach, the camaraderie between the athletes and coaches, the school’s nice — just everything about it,” Eggleston says, “It’s just that feeling. It was the first trip I took, actually, and it just stuck with me. I guess it just came down to what my heart wanted me to do.”