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Girls swimming: Boulder’s Zallen crushing the competition in her first high school season

Zara Zallen, a senior at Boulder, has already crushed three school records in her first season with the Panthers. She'll head to the University of Missouri next year as she continues to make waves in swim and dive. (Carrie Perkins/Courtesy of Zara Zallen)
Zara Zallen, a senior at Boulder, has already crushed three school records in her first season with the Panthers. She’ll head to the University of Missouri next year as she continues to make waves in swim and dive. (Carrie Perkins/Courtesy of Zara Zallen)
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It didn’t take long for Zara Zallen to make waves in the high school swim and dive scene.

Thirteen years into her swimming career, which started when she was just 5 years old, the Boulder High School student decided to take a crack at the high school scene in addition to her new Foothills club team this year. She already owns three of the school records in the 100-yard breaststroke (one minute, 5.34 seconds), the 100-yard freestyle (51.15 seconds) and the 50-yard freestyle (23.56 seconds).

Zallen currently holds the top time in the state in the 100-free at 51.75 and is ranked fifth in the 200 free at 1:54.87. She credits the team environment, different from that of the individualized style of club, for her success with just three weeks left until the state meet.

“I think having that support system and swimming for an actual team, it’s definitely helped me swim faster and motivate me in different ways,” Zallen said. “I think I’ve swam pretty well my last couple of meets. It’s faster than I usually swim mid-season, so that’s been really nice to see.”

Her club coach, Bill Rose, has been thrilled to see not just the level of talent she brought into the program last month, but the sheer level of commitment and drive to consistently improve that he’s already witnessed.

Zara Zallen, a senior at Boulder, has already crushed three school records in her first season with the Panthers. She'll head to the University of Missouri next year as she continues to make waves in swim and dive. (Sloan Zallen/Courtesy of Zara Zallen)
Zara Zallen, a senior at Boulder, has already crushed three school records in her first season with the Panthers. She’ll head to the University of Missouri next year as she continues to make waves in swim and dive. (Sloan Zallen/Courtesy of Zara Zallen)

He lauded her size and strength in the water, and believes that if she can hone her kicks and general explosiveness, she can reach an even higher level of accomplishment when she hits the pool at the University of Missouri next year. He already considers her a member of the “upper percent” in the sport at her age.

“She’s got collegiate swimming in front of her,” Rose said. “Along with that, I think she’ll get to the Olympic trials level and then, if she continues to grow and improve in areas that she’s already made good notes about where she needs to improve on, I think she could possibly get to the national level in college.

“People who aren’t in the sport may not know that the NCAA Division-I college nationals is the hardest meet in the world to qualify for. It’s even harder to qualify for that than it is for the Olympic trials. It’s really challenging and it’s the deepest and fastest meet in the world as well. I think that could possibly be one of her biggest goals that she’ll maybe be able to attain in her four years in college.”

For now, however, Zallen is laser-focused on ending her one and only year in high school swimming with a bang. She’s hoping to take home the gold in the 200 free after breaking her own school record a couple more times, but only if her sophomore sister Sloan can claim the silver in the event.

Right now, her seed time is 3.85 seconds behind the top-seeded swimmer, Mountain Range’s Marissa Inouye. She knows that feat won’t be easy to achieve at the 5A level, but she’s already shown tremendous promise in such a short time.