Humble and hardworking: Meet Saluki swimmer Jimmy Dooley


Jimmy Dooley, a Junior studying Journalism, swims laps at practice, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at the SIU Recreation Center. (Isabel Miller | @IsabelMillerDE)

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

Despite a tough start to the season for SIU Swimming and Diving, Saluki swimmer, Jimmy Dooley has kicked off his season with success.

An only child from Libertyville, Illinois, Dooley started competing in swimming during his freshman year of high school.

Because his high school did not have a swim team Dooley swam for a club team in his town.


“I went to a high school that didn’t have a swim team, so I swam club all four years,” Dooley said. “This is the first time I’ve had an actual men’s team to swim with.”

Dooley was first introduced to the sport of swimming by a childhood friend and baseball teammate.

“A friend I’ve known since fourth grade got me into it,” Dooley said. “He would always beat me, then I started to get better and beat him.”

The now junior was interested in baseball during high school and only saw swimming as a way to stay in shape, until his success in the sport started to grow.

Dooley went on to become his high school’s first ever athlete to qualify for the IHSA state swim meet.

As a senior at Carmel Catholic High School, the Illinois native also competed in the NCSA Spring Junior National qualifier.

Dooley’s father was also a swimmer in high school, but did not compete collegiately.


“My dad was the only athlete. He swam in high school,” Dooley said. “My mom didn’t play sports, but she was in the band.”

Coming out of high school, the breaststroke swimmer chose SIU because of recruiters interest in him and his enjoyment of the campus.

“[Head coach Rick Walker] was one of the only coaches who gave me an official visit,” Dooley said. “I liked the campus and looking back I’m glad that I made the decision to come here.”

Head Coach Rick Walker said Dooley’s drive and hard work makes him a great athlete to work with.

“One of the key things for him is that he is internally driven,” Walker said. “What really sets him apart is the hunger he has inside of him that motivates him to work hard and compete.”

This drive is projected through Dooley’s past and recent successes in swimming.

During his freshman year as a Dawg, he was a part of the 800 yard freestyle relay that recorded the second fastest time in Saluki history.

With his sophomore year came more improvement when he swam his way into the Saluki Top Five in three events.

So far this year, the junior has been solely competing in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke races.

“I mainly do breaststroke now,” Dooley said. “My personal best in the 100 breast is 56.02 and my best in the 200 breast is a 2:03.1”

Dooley started his junior season winning both of his races at McKendree University and being awarded with MAC Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Week for the first time in his collegiate career.

At McKendree, the junior swam a 58.01 in the 100 meter breaststroke and a 2:07.35 in the 200 meter breaststroke.

His current success has come as a surprise to him, but not to his coach and fellow teammates.

“It was a surprise,” Dooley said. “I never really thought about winning the award. It made me happy that I won it out of everyone because there are a lot of good swimmers in the MAC.”

Although his recent success has come as a surprise, Dooley said has worked hard to achieve these things.

“I remember Rick telling me that you have to work twice as hard every year you return,” Dooley said. “This is my third year, so I am working six times harder than I was my freshman year.”

While Dooley competes mainly in individual races, both his coach and teammates describe him as a selfless team player and a silent leader.

Dooley’s roommate and teammate, junior Kevin Kluge noted his competitive spirit and willingness to help and cheer on his teammates.

“He is a very competitive person all around,” Kluge said. “He’s also a team player who’s always cheering us on. He’s the perfect athlete to have when it comes to teamwork, effort and spirit.”

Kluge also said Dooley has been a great help to him throughout his time at Southern.

“He helps me a lot,” Kluge said. “If one of us are ever struggling with swimming, we talk about it and give each other advice. He’s a good person to fall back on.”

Walker described Dooley not only as a team player, but as an athlete that leads by example.

“I would deem him more of a silent leader,” Walker said. “He puts the work in, people see how it’s paying off for him and become willing to put in that kind of work as well.”

Despite his early success this season, the swimmer has his eyes set on even bigger goals later in the year.

“There is a winter national meet in November,” Dooley said. “I don’t have the times yet, but I am point two seconds away from getting in, so I would really like to make it there.”

With the meet being at the end of November, the junior has about six weeks to qualify.

Walker said Dooley’s confidence in himself plays a large part in his current success and that it will take him far, maybe even as far as the November nationals meet.

“He is successful because he believes he can be,” Walker said. “Every athlete that has gone on to do great things has this quality. I don’t see anything that can deter him from doing that.”

You can catch Dooley and the rest of the Saluki swimmers at their next swim meet on Nov. 15 at the University of Missouri.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.