BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA - MAY 18: Zach Apple competes in the 200 Freestyle on Day Three of the TYR Pro Swim Series at Bloomington at Counsilman Billingsley Aquatics Center on May 18, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Photo: Contributing Writer
Photo: Contributing Writer

Butler County native eyeing 2020 Olympics after winning medals around the world

Swimmer Zach Apple has won seven gold medals this summer.

Zach Apple seems to have spent as much time on award stands this summer as he has in swimming pools.

The Edgewood High School product returned in late July from the 2019 FINA (International Swimming Federation) World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals, one silver and one bronze while swimming on relay teams for the United States squad. He helped the men’s 400-meter free relay team set a meet record and the mixed 400 free relay team set a world record.

»LOOKING BACK: Apple blazing trail for Edgewood swimmers

Earlier, at the World University Games in Naples, Italy, he won individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 freestyle and helped the 400 and 800 free relay teams and the 400 medley relay team also win championships.

That’s five golds in Italy and two more in South Korea for Apple, who won Swimswam.com’s Swimmer of the Month award.

“It was fun to be a part of the team,” said Apple, taking a break at his family’s Trenton home before heading off to Alabama to visit friends. “It was fun to compete at a high level. With so many guys vying for international medals, it was an experience.”

Apple was particularly proud of his 46.86-second split in the 400 free relay at the South Korean event.

“That’s one of the fastest splits in the history of United States swimming,” he pointed out.

Apple’s summer exploits cap a senior year of swimming for perennially powerful Indiana during which he helped the Hoosiers win the NCAA 400 medley relay and he won Big Ten championships in the 200 and 400 free, the 200 and 800 free relays and the 400 medley relay. He was particularly proud of helping Indiana become the second NCAA team to finish the 400 free relay in under three minutes.

“That was the culmination of my move from Auburn,” he said.

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Apple graduated from Edgewood in 2015 after winning the Ohio 50-yard freestyle state championship and finishing second to St. Xavier’s Grant House in the 100 free. Indiana showed some interest, but Apple committed to Western Kentucky, a decision that went awry when the Hilltoppers’ program was suspended after a hazing scandal.

Apple ended up at Auburn, where his best finish in three seasons was a Southeastern Conference 50 freestyle championship as a junior. A coaching change prompted a transfer to Indiana for his final season.

“I loved my three years at Auburn,” he said. “That was exactly what I needed at that point. It put me on the international scene, but coming out of my junior year, I wanted to have some control over my coach and training partners.”

Being closer to home also helped.

“Being less than three hours away instead of nine was a bonus,” the exercise science major said.

GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 21: Team USA (L-R) Zach Apple and Blake Pieroni reacts after setting a Championship Record of 3:09.21 in the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Final on day one of the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre on July 21, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Photo: Contributing Writer

Apple expects to graduate in December after having to retake a couple of classes because of transferring, but he’ll have to fit in his classes around his competing for D.C. Trident, the Maryland-based entry in the brand-new professional International Swimming League. Four United States teams and four European teams will comprise the ISL, the finals for which are scheduled to take place in a pool at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in December.

“The first meet is in Indianapolis on October 4-5,” he said. “Then we go straight to Naples the following weekend, then we’re back in Maryland in early November.

“It’s a cool thing,” he added. “It’s a nice way for swimmers to get in more racing and more revenue.”

Extra competition also will help Apple prepare for next summer’s Olympic Trials in Omaha, which will determine the country’s team for the Tokyo Games. Swimmers will compete in a portable pool built on an indoor basketball court in an arena that seats 15,000.

“Definitely still vying for that,” Apple said. “We have 10 months of work before the trials. I have a season-long plan in place to peak at that.”

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