Zach Apple is an American sprint freestyler and 2021 Olympian. He is a 2x Olympic champion, 3x World Champion, and 1x Pan Pacific Champion.
Apple didn’t start swimming year-round until he was 16, playing other sports like basketball and track until then. The Former Auburn tiger shocked the world at the 2017 U.S. Nationals and World Championship Trials, taking out a loaded prelims field including Olympic Champion Nathan Adrian and other big names like Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Held to enter the final seeded first. He went on to book his spot at his first World Championships with a 4th place finish.
Apple originally committed to swim collegiately at Western Kentucky but when the school suspended the program in the spring before he was supposed to be on campus, Apple decided to sign with Auburn.
Apple qualified for the maximum three individual events at the NCAA Championships in his freshman year. His best finish came in the 50 yard freestyle where he finished 19th. In the 100 yard freestyle he finished 35th and the 200 yard freestyle he finished 20th. He earned All-American honors for his prelim swim on the 200 yard freestyle relay where the Tigers went on to finish 6th.
In his sophomore season, Apple became the 13th Auburn swimmer to earn the maximum 7 All-American honors in a single season. His best individual finish came in the 50 yard freestyle when he tied for 4th place with Missouri’s Michael Chadwick in 18.97. He finished 12th and 14th in the 200 and 100 yard freestyle. On Auburn’s relays, Apple helped the tigers to 6th place in the 200 yard freestyle, 11th in the 400 yard freestyle, 12th in the 800 yard freestyle. His other All-American honor was for his prelim swim in the 400 yard medley relay.
Continuing to progress, Apple had a very successful end to his third (and what would prove to be his last) campaign at Auburn. He tied for 5th place in the 50 (18.97) with Cal’s Ryan Hoffer, and led off Auburn’s 11th place 200 free relay in a best time of 18.82 shortly after that. Overshadowed by 200 free powerhouses Townley Haas and Blake Pieroni going 1:29/1:30, Apple quietly snuck in for 3rd place with a 1:31.18, shattering the Auburn record and his personal best. After getting 10th in prelims by just .04, Apple crowned his weekend with a best time in the 100 free by swimming a 41.36, winning the consolation heat by nearly half a second.
Transfer to Indiana
After the resignation of Brett Hawke following the conclusion of the 2018 NCAA season, Zach Apple announced he would be transferring to Indiana University for his senior year. Apple did say the resignation of head coach Brett Hawke played a big role in his decision to transfer.
“I was planning on staying at Auburn,” Apple said. “With Brett resigning… he was obviously my main coach, being in the sprint group. So that was a bit of a bummer.
“I think that this is going to be the best decision for me to move forward in my career. But I’m super thankful for coach Hawke and the three years we had together, and everyone here at Auburn has been amazing.”
He said IU was also a great place to finish out his major – exercise science – and cited IU’s burgeoning pro group as a good opportunity for to continue his swimming after graduation. There are already two Auburn alums in the Indiana pro group. Apple said he was good friends with Ashley Neidigh when she was at Auburn, and although he didn’t overlap with Zane Grothe on the college team at Auburn, he did get to know him better last summer. Both now train out of Bloomington, Indiana.
Apple flourished at Indiana, continuing to progress throughout his senior season. At NCAA’s, he once again scored top 8 in all 3 individual events, including 5th in the 50 (18.99), 2nd in the 200 free (1:31.55), and 3rd in the 100 free (41.45). Apple anchored Indiana’s 400 medley relay to it’s 2nd consecutive NCAA title, marking Apple’s first ever NCAA title. On the first day of competition, Apple led off IU’s 800 free relay in a best time of 1:30.34, the relay going on to get 4th. Apple also led off IU’s 200 and 400 free relays, which also placed 4th.
2017 US Nationals and World Championship Trials
At the 2017 World Champ Trials in Indianapolis, Apple got heads turning when he took down big names like Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel in the prelims. He entered the final seeded first with a time of 48.14, 2.04 seconds faster than his previous best time. He qualified for the 400 meter freestyle relay in Budapest after finishing 4th in the 100 meter freestyle.
2017 World Championships
Apple made his international debut at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He swam in the prelims (48.16) of the 400 free relay, garnering a gold medal after the finals team touched first.
2018 U.S. National Championships
Apple finished fourth in the 100 freestyle (48.34) after posting a personal best time of 48.06 in the prelims, and fifth in the 50 freestyle (22.06). He swam in the 200 freestyle but was disqualified.
2018 Pan Pacific Championships
After his disappointing DQ in the 200 free at Nationals, Apple found redemption at pan pacs, as he tied with teammate Pieroni in the 200 free prelims (1:46.54) on day 1 for 3rd fastest American, rendering both to the B-final. In finals, Apple was narrowly beaten by Pieroni, but still posted a solid time of 1:46.78. On day 2, Apple once again qualified as the top seed in the 100 free with a 48.0, but in finals dropped to 5th place in 48.47. Because of his performances the previous day, Apple was called on for the third leg of the 4×200 free relay, where he split 1:46.20 en route to gold for team USA. On day 3, Apple went 2nd in the 4×100 free relay, splitting 47.92 to aid USA to the gold, but they would ultimately be disqualified for swimming in the wrong order.
ISL – DC Trident
On June 11, 2019, Zach Apple was announced as a member of the DC Trident ISL team, headed by GM Kaitlin Sandeno.
2019 World University Games
Zach Apple started the 2019 WUG’s on the men’s 4×100 free relay, where he helped USA take home gold with a split of 47.79 in the 1st spot. Next up was the 200 free, where he took gold in 1:46.80, going out hard and building nearly a 1-second lead into the final 50. Nikolay Snegirev nearly closed the gap over the final stretch, but Apple hung on to win 1:46.80 to 1:46.97.
In the 100 free, Apple was once again the top contender, and held his spot in the final, touching for gold in 48.01 ahead of American teammate, Tate Jackson, who touched for 2nd in 48.29. Apple won his 4th gold of the games by anchoring the 4×200 free relay, splitting a field best of 1:46.16.
On the final day of competition, Apple placed 6th in the 50 free (22.50), and finished his program by anchoring (47.55) Team USA’s gold medal winning 4×100 medley relay.
2019 World Championships
Apple continued his monumental summer in Gwangju at the World Champs. In the finals of the 4×100 free relay, Apple split a field best 46.86 to help the USA to the fastest textile time ever posted. Apple returned on the 4×200 free relay, splitting 1:46.03 to help USA earn bronze.
Apple was far from done at that point. On Day 7, he swam on the finals relay of the mixed 4×100 free relay, splitting 47.34 on the 2nd leg to help USA win gold, just missing their own world record. On Day 8, Apple swam the freestyle leg of the 4×100 medley relay in prelims, splitting 47.59 to put USA in 2nd headed into the final, where they ended up earning silver.
2021 Olympic Trials
In the 200 free on Day 3, Apple placed 5th in the 200 free (1:46.45), giving him a potential slot on the Olympic team. But on Day 5, Apple solidified that spot, finishing second behind Caeleb Dressel in the 100 free at 47.72, earning him an Olympic berth and an individual event to swim in Tokyo.
2020 Olympic Games
Apple started his first Games on Day 2 in the 4×100 free relay. In prelims, he anchored USA in a very solid 47.2, guaranteeing his spot in the final. In the final, he maintained the anchor position, throwing down a monster 46.6 anchor to propel the US to gold in 3:08.97.
Apple was back in the 4×200 free relay, swimming the 3rd leg in the final and splitting 1:47.31 to contribute to USA’s 4th place finish. Apple finished his meet by anchoring the 4×100 medley relay, swimming a 46.95 split out of lane 1 to help USA touch for gold and a new world record.