After WPIAL Hall of Fame swimming career, Aspinwall native climbs ranks in Marines

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Sunday, June 26, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Mallory Dietrich has parlayed an outstanding swimming career at Oakland Catholic and the Naval Academy to her rise to captain in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Aspinwall native who graduated from Oakland Catholic in 2006 is now the deputy director of protocol for the superintendent of the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

She was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame on May 27 and has come a long way since she first dipped her toe into the pool at the Allegheny Valley YMCA in the Natrona Heights section of Harrison Township.

While spending part of her childhood in Fawn Township, Dietrich was a gymnast who suffered a broken arm and decided to take up competitive swimming.

“My older sister, Diana, was swimming, and, while I was sitting around the pool, I decided to take up swimming,” Dietrich said. “And the rest is history.”

She went on to capture 14 WPIAL and 12 PIAA titles while at Oakland Catholic. Dietrich medaled in all four years with the Eagles, including her sophomore season where she won eight medals, sweeping the 100 butterfly, the 200 IM, 200 free relay and 400 relay titles at both the WPIAL and PIAA meets.

Dietrich’s success gained national attention, earning swimmer of the year honors from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. She was an All-American all four seasons at Oakland Catholic.

Dietrich didn’t stop there. At the Naval Academy, she wasted no time establishing herself, earning NCAA swimmer of the week honors in December of her freshman year. Dietrich later won three events at the Patriot Conference championships and was named the league’s rookie of the meet for 2007.

Dietrich feels her regimen in high school prepared her for life in the military.

“You have morning practice, afternoon practice, sometimes at lunch you do a dry run training,” she said. “The overall regimen and the schedule at such a young age is ingrained in you, optimizing your time and making the most of what you have. And then that competitive nature is a huge help when you join the military or anything in life. I liked the smaller environment at Oakland. It helped me a lot. They helped me prepare for the academic challenges.”

Dietrich also earned first-team all-Patriot League honors in 2007 and ’09, breaking seven school records. It was enough to be invited to the 2008 Olympic trials.

As in any college, or, particularly, a military academy, the challenge to balance athletics and academics is always there.

“It was definitely a struggle,” Dietrich said. “The beautiful thing about the Naval Academy is that you cannot fail out of that place unless you actually want to. There is so much support there, and I think that’s why I love the place so much like Oakland Catholic. All the students do a sport, even intramurals, and everybody is also a student. It was a challenge, but I made it through. There were some hiccups along the way.”

Even though she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic swim team for Beijing Games, Dietrich feels it was a positive experience.

“It was incredible,” Dietrich said of the tryouts. “I’ve got to give due to my little brother, Douglas, who was out there with me. It was fantastic, unlike anything else. The trials and the Olympics are the closest anyone can get to how NFL players feel or NHL hockey players feel. You walk in there and feel, ‘Wow, all the hard work and dedication and sacrifices and hard work are paying off.’

“Even though you don’t make it, you accomplish something not a lot of people accomplish. Looking back, I feel now it was a bigger deal than when I was there. I didn’t swim the best, but I had the best experience there. It was a life-changing experience.”

As a senior at the Naval Academy, students choose their preferences to join the Navy or the Marine Corps.

“When you get commissioned in May, the Marines head down to Quantico, Virginia for basic school whether you’re an aviation contractor or a ground Marine,” Dietrich explained. “It’s something the other service (academies) do. The Marine Corps is the only service where everyone goes through the same exact basic training.”

By then a second lieutenant, Dietrich was deployed to Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011. Following that, she earned her Parachutist Badge (Jump Wings) and became a company commander at the Marine Corps Special Operations Command in 2014.

Dietrich returned to the Naval Academy as a company officer, then was transferred to Camp Pendleton, Calif., to serve as company commander for the 1st Transportation Support Battalion in 2018.

In 2020, she assumed her current position as deputy director of protocol.

“We support the superintendent in all the events and meetings,” Dietrich said.

“Next to the White House, the Naval Academy is the most entertained establishment in the United States.”

A cool part of Dietrich’s title is organizing events around and attending the annual Army-Navy football game.

Her sister, Diana, also went to Oakland Catholic, brother Douglas to Central Catholic and sister Michelle to St. Joseph.

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