Dion Low doesn't need external motivation to be competitive in the pool.
The Valparaiso junior's businesslike approach seems to suit him well. Low has qualified for the IHSAA state swimming meet in each of his past two seasons. He placed 10th in the 200-yard individual medley and 15th in the 100 breast last year.
"Some guys like to get riled up," Valparaiso coach Zach Hall said of Low. "He's a very intellectual kid and swimmer. He can adapt his stroke and see what will work.
"He's very competitive, but he just doesn't show it."
It's all a part of Low's cerebral take on his races.
"When I prep myself for a race, I always know what I want to accomplish," he said. "I see myself accomplishing the task. I know the work I do always will pay off in the end."
Low has reaped the benefits of two strenuous offseasons. Two summers ago, he attended the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. This past summer, he took part in an all-star training camp in Flagstaff, Ariz., which included some altitude training.
"I was exposed to different types of training, and there was a sharing of ideas," he said. "Being around in that atmosphere definitely helps."
While the offseason training had its individual rewards, Low also enjoys his time spent in the prep realm. Even though Low might not be the boisterous type, he says he definitely enjoys the electric atmosphere.
"The pure excitement of these meets is great," Low said. "I love it. People are going nuts about a race, and it might just be at a dual. The excitement level and being part of a team makes the event so enjoyable."
Low has another chance for enjoyment at today's prelims for the LaPorte Sectional. Michigan City's Cameron Miller and Nate Quinlan provide some quality competition for Low. Miller has three top-four state finishes in the 100 breast and he was 3rd in the 200 IM last season. Quinlan edged Low for second in the 100 breast at this year's Duneland Athletic Conference meet.
"Dion always has his best splits when he's got some great competition right next to or ahead of him," Hall said. "He settles into his stroke against them."
Low's 1:58.64 is 12th-fastest this season in the 200 IM, and his 1:00.4 in the 100 breast is 11th. His goals for the season are 1:52.6 in the 200 IM and under 58 seconds in the 100 breast.
"When you're setting goals, you almost want to have a 50/50 chance of succeeding," he said. "Even if you are stopped short of the goal, you can still feel like you put everything into it."
Also expect Low and his teammates to put everything into the meet, since the squad is dedicating the sectional to legendary former Valparaiso swim coach Charles E. "Skip" Bird, who passed away a few days ago.
"We want to show our respect for him," Low said. "We're going to give it our all."