NICEVILLE – Around the age of 16, Dylan Hammond hit a slump.
He was burned out after more than six years in the swimming lanes, and he noticed he “just wasn’t getting faster.”
“It was so painful because I felt I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Niceville senior, who swims year round as a member of Coast Aquatics as well.
The slump was short-lived. Two years later, he can’t imagine his life without swimming. And he won’t have to, the four-time state qualifier signing his National Letter of Intent with Florida Institute of Technology on Wednesday surrounded by friends, family, coaches and teammates.
“It’s a great academic school considering I can major there in computer science, and I can also walk on and swim there,” he said. “I felt like all this time I’ve been swimming, it’s been worth something. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun and it’s a great time. But going to a college and representing a team at that level, it makes it all worth it. It's hard to describe the feeling.
Located in Melbourne, Hammond said the seven-hour trek is the perfect distance to spread his wings but also have his parents close enough to visit.
At Florida Tech Hammond will specialize in the butterfly, specifically the 200-meter. And he has Niceville coach Kathy Ritacco’s endorsement.
“Dylan has been an excellent teammate and valuable leader for Niceville’s swim program for the past four years,” Ritacco said. “He has his name in the NHS record book and is going to be hard to replace. I am so excited to see him realize the dream of swimming collegiately and look forward to watching Dylan achieve great things at Florida Tech.”
Hammond, though, knows he has to raise his game for the next level.
“I’m not ready for it right now but after the summer I will be," he said. "What has me scared is most teams practice two times a day but at Niceville it’s once a day. So at Florida Tech it’ll be 13 practices a week. What’s encouraging is I’ve been swimming with the same coach for five years now and this new coach has been telling me things I’ve never heard before.
“It’ll be a breath of fresh air.”
As for his goals in the swim lanes, Hammond said it’ll be to “make the NCAA championship and represent the team there.”