By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, December 27, 2022–Olivia Dinehart’s work ethic has gotten her to where she is today in swimming.
“It’s just nice to see when you work hard and then getting to see that pay off later,” Dinehart said. “That reward is probably what’s kept me going this long.”
Of course, there were tough days in training and meets as well.
“The hardest part in swimming is when you’re not dropping obviously,” Dinehart said. “It’s so much fun when you are dropping and doing really well. But it gets hard when you hit that almost like a plateau. It gets harder and harder to drop as you get faster.
“I think it’s really important not to get discouraged in practices. Just wait until you get to college. It’s going to get very exciting.”
Her talented teammates she trains with has helped her motivation through the years.
“They are very easy to make myself motivated,” Dinehart said. “I think we are all very competitive in practice and we all motivate each other mentally. Being at this level it’s easier to have other people at this level. If I didn’t have them with me it would probably be a lot more difficult because it’s harder to be motivated if you’re not surrounded by people at the same level as you. It’s nice to have people with the same goals and same ambitions and who want the same things.”
Her turning point in the sport 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,” she said. “I thought if I could keep going I could be potentially really good and that would be amazing.”
Dinehart, 17, defended her state title in the 100-yard breaststroke in November for Cutler Bay High School. Winning one title in the Class 1A meet is hard enough when the field features the likes of Bolles, St. Andrew’s and Pine Crest, but winning two straight titles is a huge accomplishment. She was a state runner-up in the event her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“There was definitely more pressure,” Dinehart said. “I didn’t feel a lot of pressure my junior year because I honestly didn’t expect to win. I went in hoping for the best. It came as a little bit of a surprise. I was really happy about that.
“It was different this time because the kids at school don’t know how swimming works so they expect you to come in first again. It’s a little more difficult than that. I was looking out for people who would give me a little more competition than last year.”
As a junior she won in 1:02.28 and this year she went 1:01.60, leading from start-to-finish.
“The second time was sweeter because I was so anxious,” she said. “We had more people from my high school team there behind the blocks and it was really nice. It was bittersweet as well because it was the last time we were swimming at states. As I look back I have had a successful state career. I’m happy how this turned out.
“It was definitely the highlight of the year for me since it was the last state meet. It is such a special meet. It was nice that we had our high school coach (Marshall Ruffo) there. It may be normal to some of us but when our coach gushes over us it makes you realize how exciting it is for our school.”
Dinehart verbally committed to Auburn University in October 2021 and signed earlier this fall. She visited Indiana, University of North Carolina and Auburn.
“I went in expecting UNC to be my favorite and I loved it there, but when I went to Auburn I thought this is totally different,” Dinehart said. “It felt like a home away from home. I immediately felt comfortable with the coaches, swimmers, dorms, the team was amazing. It all came together perfectly. I’m really happy with everything.”
Dinehart is excited to be working with Associate Head Coach Vlad Polyakov, a three-time Olympian, world champion and NCAA champion. Polyakov is a St. Thomas Aquinas alum. Auburn is one of the top women’s teams in the nation.
“I think he is doing amazing things,” Dinehart said. “Watching the breaststrokers drop almost every time they swim gives me hope. I think yes, I picked the right school. I watched a few of their practices. They all trust him and speak so highly of him. I am very excited.”
Dinehart is currently training for the Feb. 9-12 Southern Zone Sectionals in Orlando and March 1-4 TYR Pro Series in Fort Lauderdale.
Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack. Dinehart joins SOFLO teammates Isabella Callaway Coy (October), Jianna Amores (September), Carolina Carrera (August), Lydia Smutny (July), Amber Connor (June), Eva Ortiz (May), Sally Golding (April), Natalie Gembicki (March), Sofia Lugo (February) and Valentina Remmele (January) as 2022 Swimmers of the Month.
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 ESPY Sportswoman of the Year Katie Ledecky, 2020 Olympians Simone Manuel, Lilly King, Annie Lazor, Ashley Twichell and other elite swimmers Melanie Margalis, Molly Hannis and Kelsi Dahlia.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org