There's a reason Michael Dilks is one of Cabarrus County's best high school swimmers.
"It doesn't matter if it's a dual meet or the state meet," said Dilks, a Mount Pleasant senior. "I'm 100 percent serious when it comes to swimming. I feel I'm the hardest-working guy in the pool."
His demeanor and work ethic have turned him into a state championship-caliber swimmer. At the 2011 state meet, Dilks qualified for two individual events and shared a fourth-place finish with his teammates in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
Mount Pleasant's season opened last month, and Dilks' year-round swim team will begin competition this week. He is in his first year competing for the NOMAD team based at Pfeiffer University.
Dilks is also a decorated cross country and track runner, but swimming is his forte.
Team comes together
It started with his freshman year when the Tigers competed in the Rocky River 1A/2A conference, and qualifying swimmers went straight to the state meet without competing in a regional.
Dilks placed 12th in the 500 freestyle and 16th in the 100 breaststroke. His favorite moment from that season was making up a deficit over the last 25 yards to win the 100 butterfly at the conference meet.
Two years ago is when the Tigers' standout relay team came together. Dilks was a sophomore when Mount Pleasant was moved up a level to 3A. Along with fellow sophomore Kody Rice and juniors Spencer Kiessling and Devon Jarman, a first-time swimmer, the team placed sixth at regionals and 10th at the state meet.
Mount Pleasant breezed through the regular season last year without losing. The Tigers placed third at regionals and improved their state championship performance by six places from the previous season.
"We really came together," said Dilks. "We really worked hard, and we had a really good swim."
With junior Dylan Campbell replacing Jarman in the 400 freestyle, the relay team grabbed a 12th-place finish. In his individual events, Dilks finished eighth in the 200 freestyle, his highest individual finish in three seasons, and 12th in the 400 freestyle.
"I like working together as part of a team on a relay," said Dilks. "But I also like not having to depend on someone else. I just like knowing it's in my hands to win."
By winning three events at the South Piedmont Conference meet, Dilks secured his third straight all-conference selection last season. He's also been named the Tigers' most valuable swimmer each of his three years.
A champ on land, too
Dilks is also used to making the all-conference team in cross country. His best season was in 2010, when he finished second in the SPC. His 12th-place finish at regionals qualified him for the state meet, where he finished 41st.
Because of injuries, this fall's cross country season was filled with more disappointment than joy. With stress fractures in his leg, Dilks missed more than three weeks of the season. He was medically cleared to compete again the day before the conference meet. Dilks placed fourth in the race but says the pain was too intense for him to run at regionals.
Dilks joined the Tigers' track and field team last year. His season highlight was breaking the school record in the 3,200-meter run.
But his future is in the pool. Saying he enjoys a small-school atmosphere, Dilks signed last month to swim at Pfeiffer. He plans to study criminal justice there.
"He's a hard worker," said Eric Anderson, coach for Pfeiffer and for Huntersville-based NOMAD's team at Pfeiffer. "He's motivated to do well. He's driven to reach his goals. He's very consistent with his training when he's there every day."