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Tim Gallagher is ready for the next chapter of his swimming career as U.S. Swim Trials move into his rearview mirror

Earlier this week Tim Gallagher sat in the stands watching the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. It was awe-inspiring as swimmer after swimmer saw their dreams realized in becoming an Olympian.

In three years, Gallagher hopes to join them and enjoy all the pomp and circumstance.

The Poulsbo native accomplished what he considers step one this week, participating in his first trials competition — with a swim in the semifinals of the 200 backstroke — alongside the reigning Olympic champion Ryan Murphy, Austin Katz, Shaine Casas and more.

“It was good, it was fun,” Gallagher said by phone Saturday. “My times, they’re not what I wanted but I’m happy to have that (experience) under my belt going into the next chapter of my swimming career.”

Gallagher placed 13th overall, with the top eight making it into the finals and the trials champion securing a spot to Tokyo. 

Tim Gallagher walks onto the pool deck during the start of the second heat of the 200 backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials Thursday in Omaha, Neb. Gallagher, a Kingston High alum and Poulsbo native, finished 13th overall in 2:00.77. (Photo/Erika Van Huis)

Every athlete has stepping stones to their career, and yes, some jump a few stones to reach their goal quicker than others. But Gallagher and coach Nick Folker, will get back to the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and after a couple weeks off to recuperate, will then sit down and plan out the next three years.

With the lockdown postponing the Tokyo Olympics to this year, adding a fifth-training year to the normal four-year cycle, it means the 2024 Games are a few short years away. The postponements also meant Gallagher didn’t gain the experience of swimming at larger meets, U.S. Nationals, Junior Nationals, U.S Open’s etc., to gain valuable training. 

Gallagher found himself, figuratively, thrown into the biggest meet of his life and it wasn’t surprising when the butterflies kicked in.

“I was definitely nervous going into that prelim swim,” Gallagher said, “which is the first time I’ve been nervous in a long time.”

Gallagher touched the wall in a time of 2:00.55 in the prelims, keeping his goal of staying in tempo and pace. Having secured a spot into the semifinals, he cut loose early going out in 27.85 seconds, but started to slow by the third 50 split (31.00) before gaining speed and touching the wall in 2:00.77.

“It was good,” Gallagher said wryly. “I’m not upset with my performance. I’m about where I thought it was.”

Gallagher was the lone representative for Hawaii-Manoa and so was relieved when his cheering section — including his mother, Kim Gallagher, sister Ellie, and high school coach, Kington’s Mark Van Huis and his son Joshua — arrived midweek. 

“When my family showed up on Wednesday, and I go two see them that day, that kind of calmed me down a bit,” he said. “I was still pretty nervous, but as soon as I finished the nerves were gone.”

That doesn’t mean he didn’t have his ‘fan’ moments.

“It was pretty intimidating in the morning being next to Shaine Casas, those kind of guys,” Gallagher said. “I was already nervous and there’s these guys that can just swim faster than me. How am I going to swim with them? 

“It was very cool at the same time,” he continued. “In semis, sitting in the ready room and Murphy was the last guy to walk in. It was cool to watch him.”

Van Huis was an eye witness to Gallagher’s triumphant prep career which included helping Kingston to a state 2A title, individual state titles, All-American status and the state swimmer of the year.

“Tim found a way to stare down some of the best swimmers in the world and remain composed,” Van Huis wrote on his Facebook page. “He truly deserves to be on that stage. I think in three more years we will see greater things.”

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