By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, August 31, 2018
Living on the isolated island of Guam surrounded by water was all the reason Zach Harting’s parents needed to get him in swim lessons.
His mom, Lori, first taught him as a youngster to swim on top of the water largely for safety.
But Zach had other ideas.
“I loved going under the water doing breaststroke pulls, swimming on top without getting my head under wasn’t nearly as much fun,” said Harting, a senior at the University of Louisville. “We moved to Madison, Ala., when I was a second-grader, and that’s when I joined a club team and really started swimming.”
A fairly high-profile recruit out of Bob Jones High School in 2014-2015, Harting found his home in Louisville and with Coach Arthur Albiero.
Over the past three seasons, Harting has made steady progress in the water – starting with making the finals in the 200 butterfly at 2016 Olympic Trials.
A big fan of super heroes, you might remember Harting came out on deck for the finals dressed as Batman – adding excitement and artistry to the event.
Since then, he’s proven to be quite the super hero in the pool, earning top 6 finishes in both the 100 and 200 fly events at 2017 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships and making the 2017 World University Games team.
Harting built on those results with a runner-up showing in the 200 fly this summer at Nationals – and then earning his first senior-level international medal at 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.
He placed third behind a very strong field – winning the bronze medal – in Tokyo, the city that will host the 2020 Olympics.
“Having been there and seeing Tokyo makes me want to be back in two years even more than before the meet,” said Hating. “It’s always been my dream to swim at the Olympics.”
Harting credits his time in the Louisville program and the repetition of sets and dryland work as the biggest contributors to his evolution and improvement over the past few years.
While the work has increased since his high school and club days, he said he values the extra time and commitment required of him and his teammates in Albiero’s program.
But he’s also put a lot of the onus of his success or failure on himself and the decisions that he makes every day in and out of the pool.
“Working with Coach (Albiero) and the other coaches has definitely made me a better swimmer, but I’ve also taken a lot of responsibility for my own actions,” he said. “I’ve taken more ownership of what I eat – cooking my own meals and eating better – as well as staying a little longer during sets and putting in some extra work on strengthening my forearms.
“You only improve if you set your mind and body toward achieving that. You can’t just show up and hope to improve. I love training with my Louisville teammates as well. We push each other every day in the water, and training with great athletes like Kelsi (Dahlia) and Mal (Comerford) also helps make us all better.”
And it’s gone beyond coaching in the pool for Harting.
He said he’s taken the opportunity to meet with Albiero in his office to discuss things and share ideas as well as watch video of his strokes, kicks, walls, etc., with different coaches to analyze his performances and get suggestions for improvements.
For him, in the pool as in life, it’s all about learning, improving, evolving as a swimmer and as a person and using the resources and opportunities around him to achieve this.
“I want to know what I can – should – be doing to improve,” he said. “When you accept where you are and think that you can’t be any better, you won’t be any better. I’m always working toward getting better in everything I do. It’s what drives me.”
Harting used that mentality and preparation heading into Phillips 66 Nationals earlier this summer.
While he didn’t know if he would swim fast enough to make the Pan Pacs team, he said he knew going in that he would swim fast because he had been hitting time goals during his training.
He didn’t have any specific time goals for Phillips 66 Nationals – he just wanted to swim fast and beat people.
“I love racing, so I just wanted to get in the water and race against guys like (Jack) Conger, Justin (Wright) and (Chase) Kalisz,” he said. “Once we started, I felt really good and really fast. That carried over to Pan Pacs. My swims at Nationals really fueled my confidence heading to Tokyo.”
And after having the summer of his life thus far, Harting, a mechanical engineering major, said he intends to keep swimming after completing his final collegiate season and graduating next May.
He’s looking forward to being a professional through 2020 – and beyond that, it’s kind of up the air.
“As long as I’m swimming well and still enjoying the sport, I want to keep swimming,” said Harting, who hasn’t learned yet but feels confident based on his times and results from Nationals and Pan Pacs that he will be named to the 2019 World Championship team.
“If that’s just through 2020, then that will be great for me. I’d really love to swim through 2024 if at all possible, but you just never know what’s going to happen. You plan for what you can and then make the most of the opportunities that come your way.”