By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, December 29, 2021–It was no small feat to win a state title at the Nov. 6 FHSAA State 1A Swimming Championship, one of the fastest meets in state history.
Cutler Bay High School junior Olivia Dinehart stole a little of state powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles’ thunder winning the state title in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:02.28, an automatic All-American time.
The victory capped off a perfect season for the 16-year-old. In addition to her state title, she was third in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:03.61, another All-American time.
“I went into the meet seeded first so there was a little bit more pressure,” Dinehart said. “But then I went into finals seeded third so it kind of took some of the pressure off. I was thinking on the blocks that I worked for this. I was losing for the first 75 and the last 25 I caught up and out-touched the girl next to me. It was an amazing feeling. I had all my teammates cheering for me behind the blocks. That was awesome.”
At the Region 4-1A meet, she was second to U.S. Junior National team member Julia Podkoscielny of Pine Crest in the 200 IM in 2:04.91 and won the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.06, an All-American time. She won two District 12-1A titles in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:06.79 and 200 IM in 2:10.36. At the GMAC Swimming Championships, she won the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.17 and 200 IM in 2:11.19.
Dinehart has been swimming since she was a baby and competitively since she was 7. She also played soccer for two years in elementary school but scheduling conflicts led her to focus solely on swimming.
“When I was at that age it was my teammates that helped me like the sport so much,” Dinehart said. “But thinking about it at this age it’s just so nice to see when you work hard and then getting to see that pay off later. You can’t really see that with other sports. That reward is probably what’s kept me going this long.”
Dinehart has benefitted from swimming in several ways.
“The discipline and time management has helped me and working with the team is important especially in high school swimming. A lot of people think swimming is an individualized sport. But you learn to think of your team before yourself. If that means going into an event that you don’t usually swim so you can get the team more points, whatever it is. That’s the biggest takeaway for me.”
Dinehart said her favorite event is the 200 breaststroke “on a good day” with the 100 breaststroke a close second.
Now ranked fourth in the state, Dinehart has already verbally committed to Auburn University. She will work with Associate Head Coach Vlad Polyakov, a three-time Olympian, world champion and NCAA champion. The former Florida Gold Coast swimmer at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Coral Springs Swim Club, where he worked under six-time Olympic coach and Hall of Famer Michael Lohberg, joined the staff after nine seasons at Louisville.
Auburn was one of the top women’s teams in the nation last season along with NCAA champion Virginia, Stanford, Indiana and Arizona State.
Dinehart has some lofty future goals.
“I definitely want to place at NCAAs, if not win a breaststroke event,” she said. “That would be an awesome goal. Winning with a team is one of the reasons I picked Auburn. Their selling point was if you’re not willing to work for a team and you’re more individualized then maybe this program isn’t for you. But that’s exactly what I was looking for. Winning a championship with the team would be awesome.”
Before her junior high school season, Dinehart was a two-time finalist at the State 1A High School Swimming Championship in 2019 and 2020. In 2019, she was second in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:03.87) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:05.16). In 2020, she was second in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.79) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:04.19). In 2019, she was a two-time District 12-A and region champion in both the breaststroke and IM events.
Her biggest turning point in swimming came at the Summer Junior Olympics Long Course meet when she was 14. She got her summer junior national cut and everything snowballed after that.
“I realized I had been working for seven years and this is what it led to,” Dinehart said. “I thought if I could keep going I could be potentially really good and that would be amazing.”
There are two other Dinehart siblings in swimming, Olivia’s twin sister Elena and younger sister Elise. Elise Dinehart was the TYR March Girl Swimmer of the Month.
“People are always surprised when I say this but we are not competitive at all,” Dinehart said. “And if we are, it’s in a very healthy, controlled way. My little sister will compare our times when I was her age. I think that’s very normal. We grew up in an atmosphere that was very supportive. We’re just happy for each other whenever we do well.”
Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack.
SOFLO sponsor TYR is a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories and one of the nation’s top companies.
TYR, created by athletes, is named for the Norse god of warriors in Germanic mythology. Among its female-sponsored athletes are 2020 Olympians Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Lilly King, Annie Lazor, Ashley Twichell and other elite swimmers Melanie Margalis, Molly Hannis and Kelsi Dahlia.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com