Aaron Helander competed for a successful Byron High School co-op swimming program the past 4 years.
That run should continue the next 4 years as he will join the Oakland (Mich.) University squad this fall. The Dixon High School senior will sign a national letter of intent on Thursday in the DHS library to compete for the Golden Grizzlies.
"They've got a great swimming program, and it's great for academics," Helander said. "It just felt like home."
Oakland University, located in Rochester, Mich., just outside of Detroit, has 19,000 students and is a member of the Summitt League. The Golden Grizzlies are the unquestioned powerhouse in their conference, having won their 14th consecutive league title in February.
"I really feel like I'm going to reach my full potential there," he said.
Helander visited the campus about a month ago. He was hosted by current team member Mario Rusnak, and also visited with assistant coach Shawn Kornoelje, who is in charge of the team's recruiting.
They toured the campus and went to a team practice, and everything clicked.
"I really felt like I was a part of the team," Helander said. "I can't wait to get started."
Kenyon (Ohio) College, Iowa, Cleveland State and California-San Diego were the other finalists for Helander, but when Oakland offered a full-tuition scholarship, that helped make his decision easier. He plans to study pre-med, with a goal of becoming a dermatologist.
Helander was a four-time state qualifier for the Byron co-op squad, though he was unable to compete at state as a freshman after contracting pneumonia. His top finish at state was 11th in the 100 butterfly as a senior, with a time of 50.71 seconds.
He'll swim this summer for the Sterling Stingrays club team, in preparation for his first college season. The butterfly, backstroke and IM are his preferred events, but he has no idea what he'll be doing with the Golden Grizzlies.
"I'll do whatever they need me to do," he said.
High school: Dixon
FYI: Will attend Oakland (Mich.) University on a full-tuition swimming scholarship. ... Competed 4 years for Byron co-op team in high school. ... Qualified for state all four seasons