FORTVILLE — Dixon Tierney was propped on a step, just so he didn’t seem out of place. He wore the school’s colors, black and gold, and posed for a team picture. As the obvious runt of the group with wavy hair and a grin from ear to ear, Tierney stood out like a sore thumb.

In the pool, though, the youngster fit right in.

As a skinny 10-year-old in 2007, Tierney began training with the varsity team at Mt. Vernon with athletes much older and more developed. But by that point, he’d had plenty of practice. Tierney, who simply needed a way to burn off extra energy, according to his mother Karyn Tierney, began darting through the water at the age of 4.

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Now, 15 years later, the IUPUI freshman can’t seem to get away from the pool.

A state qualifier last season as a senior for the Marauders, Tierney elected to forego the college ranks of swimming and focus on academics. Now attending the Kelley School of Business to study finance, Dixon had several coaches interested in his skill set during his last season of high school.

The University of Indianapolis, for example, recruited him the most near the end of the year, he said. But their efforts weren’t enough to change his mind.

The oldest of three children, Dixon decided his competitive days were over. Working toward a career was more important.

But like the old adage goes, Dixon was like a fish out of water. Although, none of this was planned.

“(Him coaching us) is going good; he would always give me advice when we were just swimming anyway,” Lydia Tierney, Dixon’s younger sister, said. “He gives a lot of good advice with technique and running practices for what we need at that specific time.”

It all came together perfectly for the rookie leader, who took over the program with Rick Isham in place of former Mt. Vernon coach Matt Kruse, who moved to Michigan. With his little sister on the team, mixed with his long-term commitment to the program, the opportunity made perfect sense.

“When Coach Kruse left, I wanted to make sure the team was still supported,” Dixon said. “I know how to train hard, and I talked to a lot of coaches at the beginning of the year to see what type of programs are best.

“It’s been fun. But it’s also been challenging to transition. Coming out of swimming, I never thought I would be coaching.”

During his senior season, Dixon qualified for state in the same four events as his sister. His best finish was seventh in the 200-yard individual medley, which earned him a spot on the podium.

Lydia qualified for state as a sophomore in the 200 IM, the 100 butterfly and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Her top finish came in the 100 butterfly, which she placed 12th overall. And according to her older brother, if things go well, she could “easily” swim at a Division I school in college.

Yet, according to the family, they aren’t even the best swimmers in their clan. Aiden, the youngest sibling, is an eighth-grader at Mt. Vernon Middle School and has their vote. He has the credentials to back it up, too.

As a 10-year-old, Aiden was the top point scorer in his age group at the Central Zone Championships, which included swimmers from eight states.

“He’s the best athlete in the family,” Dixon said. “I am tough on him, and he handles it well.”

During the summer, the trio doesn’t stray far from the water, either. The family began hosting swim lessons at their home and sometimes instructs clients up to eight hours a day.

With one kid in college, and two more on the way, Karyn noted it was a good way for them to earn an extra income. Not to mention, they get to be around a sport they love.

Their passion was evident when Dixon and Lydia took a trip to Hungary with their church over the summer. They traveled as swimming instructors and were able to spread their knowledge abroad.

However, oddly enough, Dixon was the first person in his family to compete in the sport. Lydia, not necessarily competitive at first, followed suit. For Aiden, it became a way of life as he watched his older siblings compete at such high levels.

“We got into swimming because Dixon was a young, competitive little guy,” Karyn said. “We had a friend with a backyard pool. Over time, it transitioned into a more competitive situation. I would get (Dixon) out of school, Mt. Comfort Elementary, early sometimes to practice with the high school team.”

After spending so much time around each other, one would expect a few fights or petty arguments between the three siblings. However, both Lydia and Dixon said that’s rarely, if ever, the case.

Although, when asked what her goals were for the state meet this season, Lydia said she would like to earn one top-eight finish. But Dixon quickly fired back saying, “No, two events. You are going to in two events.”

He sees her true potential — just like an older brother, and now coach, should.

Swim Trio

Dixon Tierney

• Mt. Vernon Swim Coach

• Oldest child, IUPUI freshman

• Kelley School of Business for finance

• State qualifier in 2016 in 200 IM, 100 Butterfly, 200 and 400 Free Relays

Lydia Tierney

• Mt. Vernon Varsity Swimming

• Middle child, Junior

• Enjoys art, drawing and painting

• State qualifier in 2016 in 200 IM, 100 Butterfly, 200 and 400 Free Relays

Aiden Tierney

• Mt. Vernon Middle School Swimming

• Youngest child, Eighth grade

• “He’s the best athlete in family,” – Dixon Tierney

• High point scorer at Central Zone Championships as 10-year-old

Author photo
Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or