Wahconah Senior Caden Padelford Follows His Dreams to UVM
DALTON, Mass. -- Wahconah senior Caden Padelford is a heck of a lacrosse player but also a huge lacrosse fan.
On Tuesday, he took a big step toward following in the footsteps of his heroes.
“Being a kid and growing up and turning on the TV on Sunday and seeing Notre Dame play or Maryland play, the dream of playing Division I lacrosse has always been there,” Padelford said. “The older I got, the better players I played with, they’ve always pushed me and inspired me to get to that level.
“This has always been a goal.”
“This” was the National Letter of Intent Padelford signed to attend and play DI lacrosse at the University of Vermont.
Surrounded by his brothers and parents and with many of his teammates looking on in the high school’s fitness room, Padelford made official a verbal commitment he made last fall to the America East power.
“This has always been a day I’ve dreamed of,” Padelford said. “This is a day I’ve dreamed of my whole life. Just being here is awesome. I can’t wait to get up there to the next level.”
He joins a Catamount program on the move under sixth-year head coach Chris Feifs.
In 2018, Feifs’ second year in Burlington, Vt., UVM went 12-4, the first year Vermont ever compiled double-digit wins. A year later, he led the Cats to a second straight America East title game.
After a COVID-shortened season in which Vermont went 3-1, Vermont last spring went 9-5, winning the school’s first America East title, and advancing to its first-ever NCAA Division I tournament, where it fell to top-ranked Maryland, which went on to lose by one goal in the NCAA title game.
“The way they performed in America East last year and won it was awesome,” Padelford said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to any games last year, but hopefully this year that changes. I can’t wait to see ‘em do it again.”
Speaking of doing it again, Padelford and his Wahconah teammates have some repeating of their own to do after winning the school’s first ever Central-Western Massachusetts sectional title in 2021.
Although sectional play is a thing of the past, Padelford noted on Tuesday that Wahconah is eyeing another run to the state’s Final Four, where last spring they lost to finish 10-1 for coach Joe O’Neill.
O’Neill was proud to see what Padelford has achieved and excited to have him on the roster for one more go-around this April.
“I’ve been coaching Caden for … it’s been about nine years in various capacities,” O’Neill said. “It’s been a pleasure to coach you. It’s been incredible seeing the gains you’ve made as a player and as a person, on and off the field as a leader, doing what needs to be done -- on the field, off the field and obviously in the classroom.
“[Wahconah Athletic Director Jared Shannon] is correct. Vermont is getting a really great player, a great kid and a great family.”
And, in a little over a year, coach O’Neill will become fan O’Neill.
“I’m super excited to see you at the next level,” he told Padelford during the ceremony. “One of the benefits of COVID is everything streams now, so it will be easy to see everything as you guys move on.”
O’Neill was high on a list of coaches in the youth, club and national programs who Padelford credited with helping him get to this point in his athletic career.
But he saved his biggest thanks for those closest to home.
“Another huge thank you goes out to my brothers, Rylan and Sawyer,” he said. “You guys are my built-in training partners, and I’ve always had the most fun shooting together in the backyard. I appreciate your constant support and time spent improving together, and I can’t wait to see where your futures take you.
“I owe my biggest thank you of all to my incredibly supportive parents. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amount of time and effort you guys have invested in me. I’m forever grateful for all the travelling you guys have done. You guys have always inspired me to work hard and perfect my craft. I sincerely thank you guys for being my inspiration and my No. 1 fan.”