By Bill Bray
FREMONT ROSS – Many high school swimmers hope they can be good enough to swim at the state swim meet once during their high school careers, Fremont Ross’ Madison Gallagher is looking for her fourth trip to the “Big Swim”.
The latest in our “Senior Spotlight” stories focuses on the swim talents of Gallagher who enters her senior season having already signed her national letter of intent to attend Bowling Green State University and swim for the Falcons.
First things first though, as Maddie is looking forward to her final season at the Hawk-Bucci Swimming Pool on the Fremont Ross campus for coach Phil Moran’s Little Giants Swim and Dive teams.
The program at Fremont Ross has a storied history starting in 1935 and quickly became a state force in the sport. Down through the years Ross has developed many outstanding swimmers leading to seven state championships in the early years.
Coach Moran spoke highly of his senior leader. “I’ve known Maddie since she was nine,” Moran began. “There are a lot of ways to get where she has gotten. She is one of our kids that started young. Kids can get as good as she is without starting young. That is the great thing about swim. Maddie was blessed to have a lot of upper classmen that really pushed her. Now this year, she has that responsibility to make sure she is pushing a big ton of younger kids. So, you really need to watch her daily because you can see that she puts the time in, and she does work hard.”
It was the breaststroke that the young swimmer took a shine to and found out firsthand that she was a cut above the other swimmers her age at the event. “I started, and it was alright. I wasn’t in love with it at first because it was cold, and I was tired, and I thought ‘what the heck is this?’. But soon, I discovered that I was pretty good at it without real formal training. I found that the breaststroke along with the kick came easy to me. One day I was swimming here at a meet and swam the 50 breaststroke. When I finished people were saying ‘Maddie, you got a JO cut you got a JO cut.’ The time I swam qualified me for the state’s Junior Olympic meet. I had no idea what they were talking about at the time. But with my qualifying time I was invited and swam at Miami of Ohio at the Junior Olympic meet. I did so well there that I was only a few hundredths of a second away from a Zone cut, that was a step up from the Junior Olympic meet. This was all within my first year or two of swim and I had no idea what all these cuts were about. Because I just missed the Zone meet, I needed to do a time trial. I remember being so scared up there on the blocks and I missed it by hundredths of seconds again. I have always been hard on myself, even from the very beginning. I continue to be hard on myself. Making myself my own worst enemy.”
“She has always been a natural breaststroker. “Moran said. “I always teased her for being a “one trick pony”. But if you are good at that one stroke, someone is still going to want you. But, over the last three plus years she has gotten so much better at the other strokes and her free style has taken off and some big things could happen for her there as well this season.”
Gallagher is coming off a junior season that was under the grips of the Covid pandemic. This time in our history has been hard on all athletes no matter what level of competition. “Last year at districts I did not swim as well as I did the year before,” Gallagher confessed. “I think it was because of Covid and the mental state I was in. I think that was true for everybody. But regardless of that, I was really hard on myself last year and that was probably a bad thing on my part.”
Despite the differences presented by Covid last season, Gallagher made her third straight trip to the state meet. “My freshman year I was seated 24th in the 100 breaststroke which was last and finished 19th. My sophomore year was my breakout year. I dropped three seconds off my time. I was seated fifth going into state and got seventh. Last season I was seated 10th and finished 10th.” The school record in the event is held by Alexis Prenzlin with a 1:01.65 in 2020. Up to this point Gallagher shows a 1:03.40
Gallagher started to grow and take on a winning attitude as a sophomore once she was more used to the high school and the swimming regiment that coach Moran used to guide his swimmers. “My sophomore year I started to get more serious about the event and knew that if I did all the right things that I could be really good if I wanted to be,” Gallagher said. “So, I started working harder in the weight room, I focused on the mechanics of the stroke and the work it would take in the pool, I ate right, I went to bed early and did everything I was supposed to do. There was an upper classman who was better than me and we would push each other. I think that played a huge part of why I did so well.”
As the swimmer’s junior year began to unfold, she found herself in a second event, the 100 freestyle. “Last year we graduated some people and Moran needed me to swim the 100 free and I didn’t know he was planning on doing that.” Gallagher said surprisingly. “I hate the 100 free; why am I swimming this?” Gallagher asked herself. “So suddenly I was swimming the 100 free in dual meets and I hated the race. Then Morgan Waggoner, a former Ross swimmer who holds three individual school records and a part of two relay school records came back as a student coach after swimming for Akron and helped me with the event because she knew that I was going to have to swim it. So, she gave me some tips and I started dropping time. Since I was dropping time at dual meets, I figured I could probably do well with it at sectionals or district. So, districts come, and I am swimming in the 55 second range. I knew what I needed to do. I was seeded I think maybe 8th at districts. I swim and I finish fourth swimming a 53.85.” Unfortunately, the top two finishers qualified for the state meet. Two of the top three from a year ago are back, so Gallagher has her work cut out for her. To eclipse the mark by Waggoner, Gallagher will have to be nearly three seconds faster. “I dropped so much time in my 100 free last year, I was so surprised. So, I am really excited for the 100 free this year and hopefully my time will keep dropping. I’d love to leave here with my name on the high school record board.”
No school marks were broken last season as the winter sports struggled through the Covid pandemic. “I am really excited for this year; I feel like it is going to be a very good year. I’ve been lifting all summer; I have been taking a strength and conditioning class at school, so I have been lifting twice a day. I have come to the pool and have been swimming twice a day. I drink a gallon of water a day and eat as well as I can,” Gallagher explained. “There were so many restrictions set on us last season, so it feels good to get back to normal and also I am fortunate that I have my senior season to give it my very best.”
After her final season at Ross, the talented senior will take her passion for swimming to Bowling Green State University. “I’m not going to lie, it is close to home,” Gallagher began explaining her college choice. “I have swam there a lot. As a very young Sand Otters I swam there, for district I swam there. So, I am very used to the pool. I really liked the coach. Once I reached out to him and we talked, he is super sweet and was just so welcoming and acted like he wanted to get to know me. He would call me out of nowhere just to find out how things were going. I just thought that was super cool compared to the other schools I talked to.” It was Gallagher herself who made the original contact to the Mid-American Conference school. “I reached out to BG myself actually. I sent an email to the coach. I just feel like having a good working relationship with the coach is super important. The whole learning process of how they coach and what they are expecting.”
Best of luck this season to this talented senior. Here’s hoping the State’s podium will be graced by her presence once more.
Individual Qualifying Events
2021 SECTIONAL MEET (Flight 2)
100 Breaststroke 1st 1:05.73
100 Freestyle 3rd 54.86
2020 SECTIONAL MEET
100 Breaststroke 2nd 1:05.38
2019 SECTIONAL MEET
100 Breaststroke 2nd 1:08.08
2021 DISTRICT MEET
100 Breaststroke 2nd 1:04.64
100 Freestyle 4th 53.85
2020 DISTRICT MEET
100 Breaststroke 2nd 1:03.40
2019 DISTRICT MEET
100 Breaststroke 4th 1:06.53
2021 STATE MEET
100 Breaststroke 10th 1:04.19
2020 STATE MEET
100 Breaststroke 7th 1:04.35
2019 STATE MEET
100 Breaststroke 19th 1:06.53