It came about a year later than expected, but Tim Gallagher’s first experience at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Time Trials was a positive one.
Gallagher, who swam for Kingston High School from 2015-19, qualified for the time trials just before heading off to swim at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in the summer of 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Olympics by a year.
He finally got the chance to swim among the heavyweights in the U.S. this past week in Omaha, Neb. The event was televised on NBC.
“It was a lot of fun, Gallagher said. “It was definitely a different type of swim meet. It was very intense, more like a sporting event than a normal swim meet. There was definitely a lot more excitement, and I was a lot more nervous than usual.”
Gallagher swam the 200-meter backstroke in two minutes, .55 seconds in the prelims to qualify for the top 16, which put him in the semifinals.
Swimming alongside 2016 gold medalist Ryan Murphy, who went on to win the event, Gallagher nearly matched his preliminary time, finishing in 2:00.77, which placed him seventh in his semifinal heat and 13th overall.
“I’m a big fan of these incredible athletes who break world records and win gold medals,” Gallagher said, “but it was definitely intimidating walking out there with Ryan Murphy and sitting in the ready room with Caleb Dressel.”
Gallagher said he had to spend a lot of time away from the pool during the pandemic — overall he ended up with a seven-month break from swimming — and had raced in just four meets prior to the time trials. He had done dryland training out of the pool, but that typically supplements a swimmer’s training regimen rather than replace it. He spent the summer of 2020 in Washington before returning to Hawaii in August.
Despite the inactivity, Gallagher said the experience of getting to race with the best swimmers in the country was an important stepping stone in his development as he gets back to racing regularly.
“When I qualified I would have hoped to be a little bit faster,” Gallagher said, “but with everything that has gone on the past year and a half, it was a good meet.”
He will see many of the swimmers he met and raced against last week again down the road. He had already raced against Texas A&M swimmer Shaine Casas at an invitational, and the time trials featuring a number of college-age swimmers eager to make it to the Olympics in the future.
For now, Gallagher said he would take a couple of weeks off from training to enjoy life in Hawaii before getting back to training for the college season. From there, it’s going to be three years of hard work in order to get ready and qualify for the time Olympic trials in 2024, and hopefully leave with a trip to Paris in hand.
”That will be the goal,” Gallagher said. “That’s what I have marked on the calendar for trying to make the team.”