As a 10th grader, Ray Poindexter was voted the outstanding member of his class on the Dunbar swimming team.
As a junior, he finished second in the Interhigh diving championships.
And now, in his senior year, Poindexter has been chosen as "Mr. Barracuda," an award given for outstanding contributions to the Crimson Tide swim team.
Despite these achievements, Poindexter is not satisfied. He wants to be known as undisputably the best diver in the Interhigh.
"I felt I had a good chance to win the diving championships last winter, but I was recovering from pneumonia at the time and wasn't 100 percent," he said. He finished second to Cardozo's Kevin Harris (105.20 points to 100.75) in the championships.
"The major difference between this year and last is that I'm finally healthy and my confidence level is very high."
"He performed well under the circumstances," said Clarence Bell, Dunbar's swimming coach. "He executed well on his dives but his timming was off."
Winning the Interhigh championship is only one of Poindexter's goals; to help the team improve and to win the team championship are the others. To that end, he will swim the second leg on the 400-meter freestyle relay team, which finished third in the finals last year.
"We'll also need him to swim the 100-meter freestyle race this year," said Bell. "We don't have a large squad, and he's willing to swim in events as well as participating in the diving competition."
Spreading himself thin last year cut down on Poindexter's practice time for diving, which threw his timing off.
"In his first year, he spent the bulk of his practice time working on his diving techniques," Bell said. "Last year, because of team needs, he put more emphasis on swimming than diving.
"I hope that this year he will realize his potential as a diver and start emphasizing diving in practice again. He needs to work on his twisting dives, such as the forward dive, full twist, and the back dive, one-half twist."
Poindexter doesn't see the split practice time as a problem. "I plan to spend an hour to an hour and a half practicing swimming and an hour on diving techniques. I enjoy doing both.
"On some of my dives, such as the 2 1/2 (two flips), I need to work on getting more height on them. But my best dive is the forward 1 1/2 with a half twist. In practice, I usually go through all seven dives rapidly, one behind the other."
Poindexter's aquatic successes are easily traced.
"I learned how swim at the age of 7 and began diving at 9," Poindexter said. "When I was 12 years old, I joined an acrobatic team under the guidance of Flip Brown. We performed gymnastic exhibitions at Gonzaga High School. This helped me form my coordination for diving."
Relatives and family members who had pursued swimming and diving in the past also helped to encourage him. "I have six cousins who were very active in swimming and diving at one time. One of them, Mitchell Jefferson, who swam for Dunbar in 1972, encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. My brother Wayne (31), who swims as a hobby, also encouraged me to stick with it so that I may get a scholarship."
Bell is mostly responsible for Poindexter's development the past three years. "He's a good coach," said the Dunbar captain. "He's taught me the things that I should know to improve my techniques. He's one of the reasons I went to Dunbar. I first met him during recreational swimming and he knows most of my family and relatives, some of whom he's coached."
Poindexter has also taken advantage of a seasonal job that also allowed him to work on his swimming and diving skills.
"The last two summers, I worked as a lifeguard at local swimming pools (this year McKinley, last year Randall). I was able to work on the board (diving board) every day to enhance my abilities and stay sharp."
And other activities have helped. "I enjoy roller skating and ice skating, which improves my balance, and hunting and target shooting in Orange, Va., which develops my concentration," Poindexter said.