Diver Hixon transfers to IU, eyes on Rio


New IU diver Michael Hixon celebrating as a member of the Texas Longhorns. He will have three years of eligilbility left at IU. Photo courtesy of Texas Athletic and Photo courtesy of Texas Athletic Buy Photos

Michael Hixon has wanted to train with IU Coach Drew Johansen since he was 14 years old.

At the time, Hixon had already been diving in national competitions for two years and went on to become a three-time Junior National Champion.

Meanwhile, Johansen was building his Duke program into a national diving powerhouse.

The Blue Devils won 15 ACC individual titles under Johansen’s direction, and he coached Olympic diver Nick McCrory to three NCAA titles.

His collegiate coaching success earned Johansen the opportunity to coach the United States team at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He coached the U.S. diving team to four medals, the most for U.S. diving since the 1988 Olympics.

Last year, Johansen left Duke to become the coach of a storied IU diving program.

Hixon was a recent high school graduate and began his freshman year at the University of Texas.

“Texas was a great place, and I loved it there,” Hixon said. “It wasn’t the right fit for me, and some of the goals I wanted to accomplish I sort of felt like I couldn’t accomplish them there.”

There was only one place and one coach that Hixon thought would allow him to reach those goals.

So, after one year as a Longhorn, the diver made the decision to transfer to IU and to finally train with whom he considers the best coach in the world.

“I always knew I wanted to dive for Drew, and at a school like IU, we have all the resources,” Hixon said. “There’s just no place better.”

A native of Amherst, Mass., Hixon began diving when he was seven years old. His mom was his coach, and he quickly became one of the top junior divers in the country, ?Johansen said.

“His family is well known in the diving community, so we’ve all watched him grow up,” he said.

As Hixon neared his initial college decision, Johansen recruited him hard to come to Duke. Hixon said that just wasn’t the right fit at the time, opting to go to Texas instead.

Hixon proved himself the best diver in the country last year, becoming a two-time NCAA Champion by winning the 1-meter and 3-meter crowns.

He was named NCAA Diver of the Year.

In his first year of college, Hixon was also making a name for himself on the international stage both individually and in synchronized competition.

His synchro partner was then-IU standout Darian Schmidt.

The two became friends years ago by competing against each other, without the intention of ever competing together.

They now make up one of the best synchronized duos in the world.

The two teamed up to finish second in the 3-meter synchro at the USA Diving World Cup Synchronized Trials in April and were also second in the same event at the 2013 USA National Diving Championships.

When Hixon was considering leaving Texas, he called Schmidt.

“I called him a lot during the year, just talking through stuff like we always do no matter what,” Hixon said. “I called him one day and was like, ‘Hey, how would you feel if we were teammates?’”

Although Schmidt graduated after last season, he is still training at IU as a post-grad. For the first time, he and Hixon can train together living in the same city with their sights set on Rio.

They are just two members of what Hixon called “Drew’s army.”

The Hoosiers will also have freshman James Connor, who competed in the 2012 Olympics for Australia. McCrory, now a Duke graduate, is in Bloomington with the sole purpose of training with Johansen.

“I think we’re going to see something that we haven’t seen in USA diving in multiple decades,” Hixon said. “I think we’re going to have something unbelievable happen here now that Drew’s here.”

Johansen gave a lot of credit to Athletic Director Fred Glass’s dedication to the diving program.

Last year, they put in new water belts, updated all their technology and built a dry-land training facility.

Hixon and others wanted to make sure they were getting the best training the world had to offer, Johansen said, which was happening right here at IU.

“The investment that Fred made in the diving program here certainly made a lot of noise in the diving community,” Johansen said. “Everybody took notice of that, and as a result, the best divers want to be here.”

Now that Hixon’s dream of training with Johansen is a reality, he is looking toward his next dream: Rio.

“Drew does a really good job of bringing good people into the program,” Hixon said. “That’s what he’s all about is that everyone who comes in here won’t just be a good diver, they’ll be good people.”

“I made the choice to come here because Rio is a huge thing for me, and I think Drew is the best coach in the world.”

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