Even after a month to reflect, Boulder swim’s one-and-done wonder, Zara Zallen, is still hard on herself about her performance at the state swimming meet, a place where she won the Panthers’ first individual title in nine years.
Expectations are just different for the Daily Camera’s girls swimmer of the year.
“I think it was good to get a state title,” the Missouri commit finally conceded almost five weeks following her first and only year of swimming as part of the high school season. “But it wasn’t the time I wanted. And the 100 freestyle —” she sighed.
Zallen, a prolific club swimmer sought out by colleges across the country, was one of three local girls, including Fairview’s Edith Simecek and Legacy’s Sabrina Rachjaibun, to win an individual state title at the Class 5A meet last month. Though, she was the only local there to nab both gold and silver in individual events.
At state, she won the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 48.58 seconds for Boulder’s first individual girls title since Amanda Richey won the 500 freestyle in 2014.
She took second to 5A swimmer of the year Lawson Ficken of Cherry Creek in the 100 freestyle (49.84).
“Zara is the best girls swimmer I’ve coached at Boulder, and she is definitely one of the best swimmers I’ve coached, period,” said Panthers coach Emily Sampl, who returned from a three-year hiatus with a program she’d previously led from 2013-19. “The others who rank up there were BHS boys that I coached.”
In the moments after her final high school swim, Zallen said she looked back on her brief high school career with nothing but joy.
She loved the team aspect of it — something that often lacks on the club scene, she admitted.
Mainly, she said, she treasured swimming with her sister Sloan. The two were a part of the 200 and 400 freestyle relays at state, which finished fourth (1:36.78) and sixth (3:32.00), respectively. The sophomore also had two individual top-six finishes of her own.
“I really wanted to do this last season with my sister. Swimming with her is just so much fun,” the senior Zallen said. “I grew up doing relays with her and just getting to do it one last time with her until maybe college … Maybe she’ll go to Missouri, too.”
Zallen set four individual school records and two on the relays.
Individually, it included the 50 freestyle (22.83), 100 freestyle (49.48), 100 breaststroke (1:05.34) and 200 freestyle (1:48.58).
The relays were the 200 freestyle (1:36.78) and 400 freestyle (3:31.50).