Grant High's Jeff Dixon looks good in water and on camera
Grant coach Beth Winkowski likes to think of senior Jeff Dixon as a model swimmer, someone who excels at the mental as well as physicalchallenges of the sport.
And, as luck would have it, Dixon is a swimming model, too. He frequently poses for photographers in Nike outfits.
The synergy of looks and talent has come together nicely for both Dixon, a beginning swimmer just five years ago, and the Generals. Dixon set the PIL dual meet record in the 100-yard free-style (49.18 seconds) in December and is a threat to win as many as three individual district titles.
'He has a good feel for the water, for the challenges of swimming,' Winkowski says. 'It's a very monotonous sport where you swim in a lane practice after practice with nothing to focus on but a black line.
'Jeff does it very well.'
Swimming is hard work, Dixon says.
'It takes every muscle in your body, that's what I liked about it right away,' he says. 'I thought of it as a challenge, mentally and physically.'
Dixon has the district's top times this season in all four individual freestyle events, the 50, 100, 200 and 500, and is nearing the league record in the 50 and 200.
A longtime street hockey player, Dixon was just learning ice hockey when he turned 13 and got involved in swimming. He dropped ice hockey after a season but stuck with swimming on the Portland Parks Swim Team, which is coached by Winkowski.
In his early years, Dixon was not a strong swimmer. His times improved through the well-worn path of morning and afternoon practices, day after day, year after year. In the past two years, especially, he has seen solid results.
'Some people can do the practices and put in the time, but they can't get the results,' says Lincoln senior Colin O'Brady, a teammate on the Portland Parks Swim Team. 'Jeff gets the results. He's got the body type and the demeanor that transfers into fast times.'
Early to bed
Last summer, Dixon was swimming up to the level of former teammate Tucker Cunningham, now at Stanford. Cunningham and Dixon were breaking each other's records on the Portland Parks Swim Team throughout the summer, Winkowski says.
Dixon's workout regimen now includes weightlifting to build strength; swimmers work to increase their explosiveness in the water without adding too much muscle mass, which increases drag.
Dixon, who is schooled at home, revels in the constant challenge swimming provides. He often swims in the morning and afternoon. On Wednesday, for example, he practiced from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the parks team, then competed for the Generals against Lincoln, the biggest dual meet of the season for both squads.
'It's tough going to bed early when you have an early practice,' he says. 'Your friends want you to stay up, but you have to sleep. That's when you have to be focused.'
Winkowski says she wishes she had more swimmers with Dixon's hockey background.
'Hockey players learn to be pretty rugged and focused, and that's good training for swimmers,' she says. 'If I had a whole team of hockey players, I'd be a happy coach.'
O'Brady, the Portland Interscholastic League leader in three events, has been a help during practices. The two school rivals swim in the same lane, challenging each other to keep their pacing.
'We feed off each other when we practice,' Dixon says. 'We were kind of butting heads when we first met, but we get along great now.'
Dixon, who finished eighth in the state 50 freestyle last season, should be among the finalists in the three shorter freestyle races at the state meet Feb. 15 to 16 at Mt. Hood Community College. Winkowski says his times should drop significantly by then because he will be resting his body.
'He's pretty much swimming all the time now,' Winkowski says. 'When you swim two seasons at the same time (club and high school), it takes a toll.'
O'Brady thinks he can break the state record (57.18) in the 100 breast stroke by the end of the season. Currently, his best is 1:01.16.
Dixon, who plans to major in English when he enrolls in college, has taken his success as a model in stride. He happened into the job at the Grant pool last summer when a model didn't know how to swim.
'It was just dumb luck,' he says. 'The photographer took some shots of me, and then he kept saying I looked pretty good in front of the camera, so they asked me to do more modeling.
'It's easy money, but it's not too challenging. I'd probably do more modeling if it didn't conflict so much with swimming.'