2017 World Championships gold medalist and 13-time NCAA All-American Zach Apple will transfer to Indiana University for his final year of collegiate eligibility after three at Auburn.
“They’ve been doing some really great things,” Apple said of Indiana. “Their team has been improving at a pretty fast rate and it seems like they’re doing stuff right in the pool over there.”
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 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.”
Hawke resigned earlier this spring and was recently replaced by NC State assistant Gary Taylor. Taylor will now have to find a new sprinter to replace Apple’s major production.
Apple has been a key player for Auburn in his three seasons there. In 2018, he scored points in all three of his individual races, taking 5th nationally in the 50 free, 3rd in the 200 free and 9th in the 100 free. He is among the fastest NCAA returners in all three events. Apple was also a member of all three freestyle relays for the Tigers.
His lifetime-bests make him a massive pickup for Indiana, which finished a strong 3rd at NCAAs this spring, but graduates its backbone freestyler, Blake Pieroni. Apple should allow the Hoosiers to pick right up where they left off, particularly on their defending NCAA champion 400 medley relay, which now returns backstroker Gabriel Fantoni, breaststroker Ian Finnerty and flyer Vini Lanza and will replace Pieroni (40.6 split) with Apple (lifetime-best 41.3 from a flat start).
Apple swam on Team USA at the 2017 World Championships as a prelims-only member of the 400 free relay. He split 48.16 on that relays’ morning squad, which was second-fastest among the prelims group.
Apple will already be moving to IU next week, as Auburn’s finals will wrap up this week. He should be eligible to start competing for Indiana next season with one year of collegiate eligibility remaining.
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