When Callie Dickinson was 7 years old and her older sisters began swimming lessons, she decided that she would swim, too. “I was just competitive with them,” she recalls. Her ambition for the sport grew, and eventually, she says, “I started to notice that I could swim pretty well.”
Pretty well, indeed. Now 16-year-old Callie is the first swimmer on the Southside to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials, the biggest swimming event in the country, where she’ll represent Virginia Beach’s TIDE Swim Team, June 26–July 3 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I’m pretty excited,” Callie says. “I think it will be pretty cool to race the top people in the nation.”
Callie earned her first qualifying time (known as a cut) in the 200-meter backstroke, then recently earned three additional cuts—the 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter Individual Medley and the 100-meter backstroke.
The success of this sophomore at Norfolk Academy didn’t happen overnight.
Callie arrives at the Mount Trashmore Family YMCA at 5 a.m. to practice. As soon as her school day is complete, she heads to the Princess Anne Family YMCA for a second practice at their Olympic-sized 50-meter pool—and she doesn't make an exception for the weekends. She’s currently doing nine swim practices a week, in addition to two dry-land practices, which include mobility and weight training.
During hard training, Callie may swim an average of 12,000 meters in a single day. That’s nearly 8 miles.
So what does Callie do when she’s not in school or the pool? “I normally sleep,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been doing it for a couple years now, so I’ve gotten used to it. I do all my homework over the weekend, and then I try to get to bed early, so it becomes a normal routine for me.”
“Swimming is definitely a weird culture,” says TIDE Swim Team Head Coach, Josh Fulton, who’s coached Callie on and off for four years. “It’s pretty amazing to see the level of academics that our swimmers are able to maintain with the crazy, competitive schedule.” Fulton explains that in their sport, people want results, but embracing the work is the hard part. “The people that enjoy waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and jumping in a cold pool—those people are rare,” he says. “When you meet Callie and you see the sacrifices that she’s willing to make, you can see that she’s going to be successful.”