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For Dickey, swimming is more than rehab

NATCHEZ — For Mallory Claire Dickey, being born with a hip click was only a gateway to greater things.

Dickey was diagnosed with infant hip dysplasia, where her ligaments did not secure her hip joints in place, causing a clicking sound in her hips.

Upon hearing the diagnosis, Dickey’s parents, Leigh and Trey Dickey, received medical advice that swimming would help strengthen the ligaments in Mallory’s hip.

What they didn’t know is that swimming would end up being more than a rehabilitation exercise for Mallory.

Leigh allowed Mallory to swim competitively when she was 6 years old.

“We put her in a meet and let her compete in the 25-meter freestyle race, and she came in third place,” Leigh said. “After that, she was hooked.”

Now at age 12, Mallory is an avid swimmer who trains extensively to become one of the best swimmers in her age group.

“She’s on a specific diet because she has to eat so much more to make up for all the calories she loses while swimming,” Leigh said. “Other parents don’t believe us when we tell them our schedule. She eats, sleeps and swims.”

But as Mallory was training for the 2013 short-course state meet in Laurel, she had an unfortunate set back.

After playing on the monkey bars at school one day, Mallory said her body felt different somehow.

“I was fine until I got into the pool later,” Mallory said. “It hurt really bad. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Leigh took Mallory to the doctor, where they found out that Mallory had stretched ligaments in he shoulders. Leigh said the doctors told them they didn’t have an estimated return time for Mallory.

“I was upset, and they told me that I would have to sit out of the short course meet,” Mallory said. “It just totally threw me off. In my mind, I freaked out.”

Mallory began rehabilitation to get ready for the long course state meet, but missing the short-course season was still looming in her mind.

She said the most difficult part wasn’t missing the short-course meet, but rather going to the meet.

“My brother competed at the meet, so I went to watch him and all of my friends were there competing,” Mallory said. “It was torture. I was thinking, ‘Why can’t I just jump in real quick?’”

Mallory said attending the short course meet motivated her to give her all in preparation for the long course meet.

Mallory and Leigh both admitted that they weren’t expecting to do well at the long-course meet with Mallory coming off of an injury.

But Mallory shocked herself, her parents and spectators with her performance in the preliminary round.

“I thought she was back to where she was before the injury, but she was cutting seven or eight seconds off of her previous times,” Leigh said. “Everyone was surprised that she did that.”

Mallory competed in seven events in the preliminary round and made it to the final round in six of those events.

Before the 100-meter breaststroke event, Mallory said she told her mother that she was going to win that event.

She got ready for her competition with confidence to go against the best swimmers in the state, including the defending champion.

“She stayed right with the girl the whole way, and she came off the turn, and it was the best turn she’s ever had, and beat the girl by a second and a half,” Leigh said.

After the race, Mallory said the only thing she told her mother was, “I told you.”

Now that Mallory has a state title under her belt, she is getting ready for a bigger stage — high school.

As a seventh grader, Mallory will be a part of the Cathedral High School swim team.

She said she is a little nervous about swimming with and against 17 year olds, but she said she feels it will push her to become a better swimmer.

Mallory said her ultimate goal is to get a scholarship to swim at Texas, California or Auburn — and possibly go to the Olympics.

Until then, she said she would love to join the USA Swimming’s “Make a Splash” foundation to help teach children how to swim.

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