Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
There are plenty of American candidates for Swimmer of the Month. (A quick reiteration of the paragraph above – this monthly post is specifically geared towards U.S.-based swimmers, before anyone spends too much time on their paragraphs vigorously defending Milak, Titmus, Peaty, Chupkov or any number of the very-deserving international swimmers). But as Swimmer of the Month naturally includes all of July, we’ll go with an athlete who had multiple high-level swims across several meets this month.
Zach Apple made the absolute most of his status as a relay-only swimmer for Team USA at the World Championships and an individual swimmer at World University Games. He finishes the month with 5 Universiade golds to go with four World Championships medals in his first World Champs stint for Team USA.
Apple was the star of the World University Games, winning the tough 100 and 200 free events. His 100 free time (48.01) appears to be the second-fastest winning 100 free time in meet history. And he was actually faster leading off the 4×100 free relay, going 47.79 and coming within a tenth of the Universiade record set by Vladimir Morozov in 2013. Apple also won the 200 free (1:46.80) and helped the U.S. men sweep the relays with splits of 47.7 (his leadoff of the 4×100 free), 47.55 (his medley relay anchor job) and 1:46.16 (his anchor leg of the 4×200 free relay).
But that was just the beginning for Apple, who moved on to win four relay medals, two of them gold, at the World Championships. And Apple was no mere passenger on those relays. His 46.86 split was the best of all U.S. men on the 4×100 free relay, and the fastest of the entire field. He was 47.5 in prelims of the medley relay with a relatively safe relay exchange of 0.22. And he split 1:46.03 on the 4×200 free relay in finals after going 1:45.59 in heats – though he was the slowest of the four finals legs, he was also a good two seconds faster than the other options out of prelims (Jack Conger went 1:47.9 and Jack LeVant 1:47.5), and was probably the difference between Team USA taking bronze and missing medals entirely. (Going just a tenth slower would have dropped the U.S. from third to fifth).
Across the month of July, Apple ranks #2 among Americans in the 100 free and #3 in the 200 free. More than that, when you tally up individual swims among Americans this month, Apple has two of the top ten in both the 100 and 200 frees – especially impressive when you consider that Caeleb Dressel has the five fastest 100 free swims.
While 2019 Worlds was far from a banner showing for Team USA, the one aspect of the team that was firing on all cylinders were the men’s sprints. And Apple looks like a key cog in that system heading into the 2020 Olympic year.
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