Throughout the 2018-19 high school sports season, we will name a weekly Sentinel Athlete of the Week every week highlighting the on-field performances of some of the area’s best high school competitors.
This week’s athlete is Cedar Cliff swimmer Zack Gallagher.
During the Mid-Penn Swimming Championships on Saturday, Gallagher walked away with four medals in total, including two gold in the 200 IM (1:55.60) and the 100 breast (58.55). He tied his school record in the 200 IM and broke the school record in the 100 breast.
He also helped the 200 medley relay to a sixth-place finish in 1:40.20 (a school record) and helped his team to eighth in the 400 free relay (3:24.90).
Q: How did you prepare for the Mid-Penn Swimming Championships?
A: Since the high school season began, I have been swimming six days and lifting two to three days per week. I have been more cognizant of my diet and trying to increase my protein and overall caloric intake in an effort to gain muscle. This training schedule has left me pretty tired and I did not taper for Mid-Penn’s, so I am hoping to see the benefits at States.
Q: Did you think you’d break school records on Saturday?
A: Yes, I was fairly confident I would break the 100 breast record. The record was 59.55 and my best time was 59.79 from the beginning of the season. I have been splitting 26-high to 27-mid in the medley relay, so I knew the speed was there; I just needed to improve the back half. I hope to better this record at Districts and/or States. I already held the 200 IM record, but I was hoping to beat it. Ironically, I tied my own record from Mid-Penn’s last year, but I hope to beat this at Districts and/or States as well.
The medley relay record was a great surprise. We had set that record last year, but our butterflyer graduated. With our relay this year, we had been swimming five seconds slower than the record. I think we just needed the energy that a championship meet brings. When I saw how fast Tucker Ball was going on the backstroke, I got pretty hyped up and split my fastest 50 breast in a 26.19. Both Nic Puig and James Thompson turned in best times to help us grab the medal and a new team record. I learned after the relay that I swam the fastest breaststroke split of all the relays, so that gave me a lot more confidence in my ability to win the 100 breast.
Q: How did your coach or team let you know what happened?
A: I definitely knew I had broken the record as this had been a goal of mine heading into the meet. The guys also knew we had broken the medley relay record as soon as we finished. It’s Nic’s first Cedar Cliff record so that was great, too.
Q: How did it feel to break those records and win four medals in total?
A: What can I say? It felt awesome! I swam four races and came away with four medals, two of them gold. I can’t ask for more than that.
Q: Anything you did to celebrate afterwards?
A: My family and I went out to my favorite restaurant for dinner.
Q: Any goals you have left for the postseason?
A: My goal meet is the Class 3A State Championship where I hope to medal. My training up until Mid-Penn’s was endurance-based without focus on a specific stroke or race. From now until states, I will focus on fine-tuning my technique and race-specific training.
Q: Do you have any hobbies outside of swimming?
A: I enjoy lifting and gaming in my spare time.
Q: If you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?
A: I am undecided on my career right now, but I know that someday I want to coach swimming, at least on a part-time basis. I plan to swim during college and then participate in Masters swimming. I have had many coaches over my 12 years of swimming and all have helped me to grow personally and as an athlete. I want to give that back to others someday.
Q: Who inspires you the most in life?
A: In swimming, several names come to mind. Michael Phelps has accomplished what no swimmer has ever accomplished through hard work and dedication. Anthony Ervin inspires me because he won his first Olympic gold medal in 2000 and then again in 2016. I know that swimming will always be part of my life and Anthony proves that it can always be your passion. Nathan Adrian is another one of my favorite swimmers. He’s an amazing athlete, yet incredibly humble. He is charismatic and I imagine he is a great training partner and teammate.
My coach inspires me every day to train smarter and harder and to dig deep for motivation and strength. I am sure it is sometimes difficult for him to come in every day and to teach and motivate swimmers who are often tired and frustrated. But he brings enthusiasm and energy to the pool deck every day and he believes in us. He reminds us often that these are our goals. When I see him show up every day to help us achieve our goals, I am motivated to show up physically and mentally too.