MONTGOMERY: Warner gets taste of Olympic dream

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Zack Warner hopes to make a return trip to the U.S. Olympic Swim Team trials in four years. And when the Montgomery High graduate heads back, he’ll be better for the experience of this past week.
Warner, a 2014 Montgomery High grad, finished 30th in the 100-yard breaststroke and 96th in the 200 breaststroke at the meet, which was held in Omaha, Neb. While his performance was a solid one, he knows he could have performed better.
“I wasn’t very happy with it,” Warner said. “But we don’t think, my coach and I, that anything was physically wrong in regards to training. I have been practicing well and fast. The meet procedure is definitely different than any other meet I have been involved in.
“I have a pre-race routine that has been the same for eight years. To have to change it because of meet procedure with no advance notice is a tough thing to deal with.”
Warner is the sort of swimmer who likes to go from the warmup pool to the blocks. But at the Olympic Trials swimmers go from the warmup pool to a ready room where they wait for up to 20 minutes before heading to the block.
“I am the kind of guy who likes to be wet on the blocks,” Warner said. “I get out of the warmup pool and then get to the blocks to go. This was much different.”
While he wasn’t happy with the overall results, Warner loved the meet experience. He swam in a heat of the 100 breaststroke with Kevin Cordes, who will swim in the Olympics this summer. And he was in the pool with some of the top swimmers in the world.
“It’s fun for sure to get to see all the big names and what not,” Warner said. “I was here (last) Thursday when we got here and I was getting in a workout and in the middle of the workout, Michael Phelps was waiting to get in and do his workout. Mentally it is very difficult to step up to the blocks with Kevin Cordes in your heat a couple lanes over. I swam against him in an NCAA meet my freshman year, but it is still surreal to think three lanes over is the guy who is one-tenth of a second off of the American record. You try not to get psyched out.”
Warner will keep working and training as he continues his college career. After starting his career at Auburn University, Warner is transferring to North Carolina State. He spent the spring training with his old Somerset Valley YMCA team and will continue to do so over the summer.
“It was definitely a step in the right direction from where my training was going,” Warner said. “I have been back since December with SVY.”
He’ll swim in a meet at Rutgers this weekend and continue his training right up to heading back to school in the fall. He’s enjoyed his time back with his old club team, which has continued to develop strong swimmers.
“We always think eventually there will be some time where we just don’t have the athletes we once had,” Warner said. “But every single year the kids step up and swim great. We’re happy about that as alumni. We thought we were not supposed to be able to do what the older kids before us did and then when we leave we don’t think the younger kids can do what we did, but they keep getting better and better.”
When Warner is at practices this summer he can pass on his experiences of the past week, which should only make him better.
“It was definitely a big learning experience,” Warner said. “It’s just a piece of the puzzle. I am only 20 and plan on at least four more years of swimming. So I certainly hope to be back.”
Warner was one of several Packet-area swimmers in the Olympic Trials meet. Princeton High graduate Will Stange swam in the 200 backstroke on Thursday. West Windsor resident Patrick Park is scheduled to swim in the 50 free and 100 butterfly today. And West Windsor resident Jack McIntyre swam in the 400 free earlier this week, finishing 42nd in 3:57.80. 