Unlike many youngsters who gravitate from sport to sport, Alyssa Dilldine knew what she wanted to do.
“I had an older brother and an older sister who were swimming, so I wanted to do it,” Dilldine said. “I remember asking when I could start.”
Now just a few years later, the Dutchtown High junior-to-be is one of the best at finishing distance freestyle races.
The 16-year-old Dilldine received one of the highest compliments a local swimmer can get when she was voted the girls MVP of the All-Metro team selected by the Capital City Swim League’s coaches last fall.
Since then, Dilldine has done anything but rest on any laurels.
Months of training led to a series of victories at last weekend’s Louisiana State Long Course Championships.
“Some athletes are driven by the desire to win,” Tiger Aquatics coach Craig Harris said. “Alyssa is one of those competitors who doesn’t like to lose, and I think that really motivates her.
“She’s an extremely hard worker who understands you have to put in the time to be successful. Not all swimmers get that.”
Next up for Dilldine will be the Southern Zones Championship scheduled for next week in North Carolina. Dilldine is hoping to achieve a U.S. Swimming Junior National qualifying mark at that meet, which would then send her to California for the Junior National Championships the following week.
“I’m so close in a couple of events,” Dilldine said. “And it’s been frustrating, but I’m hoping it will work out.”
Two more elite meets would put Dilldine on the right course for the high school season that begins in September.
Last season, Dilldine was a double winner in the distance freestyle events at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Division I-Class 5A meet held in Sulphur. She won the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 54.20 seconds and the 500 in 5:02.33.
Both times are less than three seconds off the existing state records and are close to high school All-America marks.
Those marks are also a reminder that Dilldine has grown up since the days she started swimming at the Aquatic Club. She also dabbled in ballet, but quickly found a niche in swimming.
“When I was about nine or 10, I got moved from one group to another group with older kids,” Dilldine recalls. “I guess that’s when I first thought I might be pretty good at it (swimming).
“There is some sacrifice involved. I don’t always get to hang out with my friends or go on some of the trips they take. But I love swimming. It works for me.”
Dilldine exercises her competitive mettle in other area, too. She carries a 3.5 grade point average in the classroom. She also likes the different type of competition she finds while competing for the Griffins.
“I really like our team,” Dilldine said of the Dutchtown squad. “Some of us swim for different teams during the year. And there are some who just swim for Dutchtown.
“We have a lot of fun competing together. Our coach Alex (Rayner) coaches for Crawfish (Aquatics), and he’s good to be around. He encourages us to do our best.”
Rayner added, “I leave the technical stuff to Craig and her other coaches. When I talk to Alyssa, it’s more about encouragement and maybe a little on strategy.
“She likes being part of the Dutchtown. She notices when the others improve.”
Though she is focused on the U.S. swimming meets already on the horizon, Dilldine admits she is already thinking about the high school season and the possibilities it may bring.
“I’d like to get one of those of All-American times,” Dilldine said. “I also think we can be good as a team.”