The 2008 Chrysler Sebring driven by Dixon senior Aaron Helander has gotten quite a workout the past 2 years.
He’s put 40,000 miles on the vehicle, most of them in either 10- or 25-mile increments, in pursuit of excellence in his sport of choice: swimming. In the summer, he ventures to Sterling to practice with his club team, the Sterling Stingrays, from 6 to 9 a.m., then again from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Now that the high-school season is here, he still ventures to Sterling for an hour-long pre-school workout, then heads to Byron after school to practice 2 hours with the Tigers. Dixon does not offer boys swimming, and Helander is preparing for his fourth season on the Byron cooperative squad.
“I really love swimming,” Helander said. “It’s my passion, and I always look forward to it. It’s kind of like the one thing I have every day to look forward to. I could have the worst day at school, but then I could still have a great practice.”
Helander has established himself as one of the Tigers’ top performers. He qualified for state as a freshman in the 100 butterfly, as well as a member of the 200-yard medley relay, but was unable to compete because of a bout with pneumonia.
As a sophomore, he qualified in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, as well as a member of two relays. He repeated that feat, qualifying in four events as a junior, but hasn’t quite had the right stuff to advance to the finals.
A year ago, he finished with a time of 51.88 in the 100 butterfly, 19th among 43 swimmers. A time of 50.23 was needed to make the championship finals, and 50.89 to qualify for the consolation finals.
Helander also had a time of 53.2 in the 100 backstroke, good for 23rd among 45 swimmers. The qualifying times needed were 51.47 for the championship finals, or 52.38 for the consolation finals. He’s hoping the fourth time at state will be a charm.
“I’m pretty excited,” Helander said. “I haven’t had the state meets that I’ve wanted to yet, so I’m hoping this year I can do better.”
Helander is the lone Dixon swimmer on the Byron roster, and 5 days a week he makes the trip up Route 2 to practice and/or compete with his team. He passes the time listening to satellite radio, and while he wishes he had a teammate to travel with, it isn’t a big deal to him.
“I like having time to myself, just to think, reflect on the day and get focused for swimming,” Helander said.
Helander has also shown he can get things done out of the pool. He was recently named a Scholastic All-American by USA Swimming, one of 1,229 high school swimmers to receive the honor. He has a grade point average of 4.1 on a 4.0 scale and is ranked fourth in a Dixon senior class of 198.
“I like to consider myself well-rounded, academically and in the pool,” Helander said. “It’s nice to know I can get both achievements.”
FYI: 3-year state qualifier for Byron swim team. ... Lone Dixon swimmer on 2012-13 Byron squad. ... Ranked fourth academically in DHS senior class