The arrival of transfer Diggory Dillingham has put the Oregon high school swimming record book on notice.
The Mountain View junior, the son of new Bend Swim Club coach Megan Oesting, left records in his wake in his first two high school seasons in Iowa and North Carolina. And the way he performed in early December indicates that he is ready to make a giant splash in Oregon.
In a club meet in Corvallis, Dillingham set the state 50-yard freestyle record for the 15-16 age group by finishing in 19.88 seconds, smashing the previous mark of 20.14. The time also is better than the OSAA all-time meet record of 20.18, set by Lebanon's Casey McEuen in 2018.
If that wasn't enough, Dillingham came back a week later to swim 19.52 in the Winter Junior Championships West meet in Austin, Texas. That performance is No. 3 all-time in the country for ages 15-16, and also is currently No. 2 in the nation for 18-and-under, including college freshmen.
It even surprised his mother, who won multiple Junior National titles and was undefeated at Mercer Island (Wash.) High School in the 1990s before a college career at UCLA.
“I'm still kind of digesting that,” Oesting said. “It's like the game just changed. He was trying to be a fast little kid, and now he's in like man-land.”
The way Dillingham sees it, the big jump was just a matter of time.
“I hadn't swam short-course tapered for over a year and a half, so I probably could've gone that time earlier if I had a tapered meet,” he said. “But that was the first time I got to swim fast.”
What about the 19.52?
“I thought I could've gone faster, but it was pretty good,” said Dillingham, who turns 17 next month.
Oesting said much of Dillingham's improvement had to do with the consistency of training once they moved to Bend in the late summer. Dillingham not only got steady time in the pool, but was able to train with Boss Sports Performance, which partners with Bend Swim Club.
“It's the resources and the support that have allowed him to thrive here,” Oesting said.
The 5-foot-11 ½ Dillingham doesn't have the length of many elite sprinters, but makes up for it with a natural feel for the water, according to Oesting.
“He's not a giant human. He doesn't have crazy vertical,” Oesting said. “But the kid's like a water-bender. He knows how to grab and find water and hold onto it. He knows what to do with the water. He swims on top of the water, he doesn't swim through the water. He's like a hydro-plane.”
Dillingham helped lead Iowa City West to a state championship as a freshman, winning the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. As a sophomore in North Carolina, he won a state title in the 100 freestyle.
Oesting moved to Bend after learning about the coaching opportunity through a colleague in August. Dillingham's stepbrother, Christian Carlton, is a freshman on the team at Mountain View.
“The Northwest has always felt like home to me,” Oesting said. “So when the opportunity arose, and I could take care of my boys, I felt like this was a really good place to finish that out.”
Oesting was thrilled to see Dillingham swim 19.88 in the club meet in Corvallis and was satisfied when he went 19.83 in prelims at Austin. In no way was she prepared for his performance in the finals, where his 19.52 was second to Quintin McCarty (19.35), who is ranked No. 1 for 18-and-under.
“In finals, I just knew he wanted to race,” Oesting said. “He's got the mindset of a Jedi or something. He went back like 15, 20 minutes before the race, and his face, his body, I was like, 'Something's happening here. That kid is driving it.'”
Dillingham is so far ahead of other high school juniors in the 50 freestyle, he has become a hot prospect for colleges. He is taking the recruiting process slow, though, and has decided to take a gap year after high school and enter college in 2024.
“He doesn't want to change programs the year before the Olympics,” Oesting said.
Dillingham has high aspirations. This year, he is focusing on making either the National Team or National Junior Team. His senior year, he will be taking aim at the national high school record in the 50 freestyle of 19.01.
Dillingham, who swam his first high school meet for Mountain View on Friday, will get a chance to start rewriting the Oregon high school record book at the 6A meet in February. Aside from the 50 freestyle, his personal best in the 100 freestyle (43.97) is within range of the state mark of 43.70, set by Westview's Morgon Henderson-Kunz in 2009.
“I really don't have much endurance right now, so if I get any endurance, I'll go faster,” he said of the 100 freestyle.
The atmosphere of the meet could affect his performance.
“In Iowa, it was like a really big thing. There was a lot of people going,” he said. “Less so in North Carolina, plus there weren't any spectators. It just depends. The energy of the crowd really gets me going.”
The way Dillingham has broken out of late, Oesting isn't putting anything past him.
“He is very headstrong,” she said. “If he decides this is what's going to happen, he puts a lot of power behind his force of will. That's what he's been doing.”