GREENFIELD — Although he wasn’t competing in Olympic waters, Greenfield-Central junior Zach Cook had plenty of success in the pool this summer.
Recently returning from the 2016 Speedo Junior National Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cook clocked a personal best in the 100-meter butterfly to finish 13th against competitors from across the country. In the 200-meter butterfly, he placed 23rd for a personal-best time of 2:06.42.
His time of 55.52 in the 100 butterfly made the USA national cut, too.
Cook has grown accustomed to the big stage. He said the Natatorium at IUPUI was a little larger — seating wise — than where he swam last week Monday through Wednesday at the University of Minnesota.
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“It was really exciting,” Cook said. “It was the highest level meet I have been to. It was really cool to be able to travel that far.”
Cook, already an accomplished high school swimmer, won four events at the New Palestine Sectional last season as a sophomore. He helped Greenfield-Central earn the title and later swam in four events at state.
He placed fifth in both the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke at the biggest meet of the season. Cook also swam on the team’s 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relay teams, which finished 14th and 15th, respectively.
As a freshman nearly two seasons ago, Cook was 19th at state in the 100 butterfly and also swam on Greenfield-Central’s 200-yard medley relay team.
However, he doesn’t just excel in the pool. Cook made the USA Swimming Scholastic All-American team, too, according to Greenfield-Central head coach Mark Logan.
“For a first time participant at Junior Nationals, we are very pleased,” said Logan, who made the trip with Cook. “What is really cool about a meet like this, (is) when there is not more than a second between all eight swimmers in the heat. We really learn a lot about his race.”
Added Cook, “I would say high school or even club state, there are a few seconds between people. You really had to race the people. Sometimes you can’t even tell (the winner) from the stands.”
Another interesting feature Logan and Cook experienced at nationals was a learning station for coaches and athletes. After each swim, the pair would study his prior race and talk about necessary changes or strategy.
There, the two learned that Cook’s “underwaters” or kicking were superior to everyone in his respective heat and final, Logan said.
“You can sit down with your swimmer and watch the race together for immediate feedback,” he said.
The pair, which represented the Greenfield Community Aquatic Club team, also learned the challenge of swimming in a longer pool. In contrast to the high school season, swimmers race 50 meters rather than 25 yards during club season.
“Where we lagged a little was in the second 25 (meter) of each 50,” Logan explained. “This is most likely due to not having the opportunity to practice in a long course pool. We do train 25 meters, but to have that wall there in the 50 is not the same as no wall.”
When he wasn’t competing, Cook found inspiration on the television watching swimmers like Michael Phelps in Rio.
“Every night after we would go to the hotel room,” Cook said. “The day Michael Phelps swam the 200-meter butterfly, I swam it too. It was cool.”
He said his favorite swimmer was Team USA’s Tom Shields, who is also competing in the Olympics.
Even with his recent success, Cook is far from satisfied. With another year of high school left after this season, his potential appears to have no limit.
He said making a few minor adjustments should help him improve on an impressive sophomore campaign and summer.
“I really want to lengthen my underwaters because that’s a strong part of my race,” Cook said. “I really want to hammer those down and work on backstroke especially. And of course be working with the team on the relays.”
– 2016 Speedo Junior National Championships qualifier in two events
-Finished 13th in 100-meter butterfly in 55.52 (USA national cut)
-Finished 23rd in 200-meter butterfly in 2:06.42 (personal best)
-Named USA Swimming Scholastic All-American
-Attended Senior Elite Camp this summer in North Carolina
-Won four blue ribbons at sectional as sophomore
-Swam at IHSAA State Finals in four events as sophomore
-Fifth in state in 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke
-Favorite swimmer: USA Olympian Tom Shields