Zach Harting Makes Olympics in 200 Butterfly: ‘I’m Here For the Dreamers’

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The men’s 200 butterfly hasn’t been without Michael Phelps at trials since 1996. The new look final produced a new Olympian and a new slew of finalists now steering the future of the event. Zach Harting, who had the top seed after semifinals, used a late surge to get his hands on the wall first and win in 1:55.06.

Phelps was more than just an elite swimmer, he was an entertainer who transcended sports.

Harting is embracing the entertaining role, along his journey of becoming an elite swimmer. His goal was to win, sit on the lane line and erupt — which is what he did.

“I’m going to Tokyo!!!!!” he yelled. “I was a dreamer when I was seven and I watched all my friends cancel their dreams. I’m here for the dreamers — young or the old. Make it a goal and make it happen!”

“We worked our whole lives for this. Two thirds of my life have been geared toward getting the Olympic Rings tattoo. It is a dream come true,” Zach Harting said. “I think back to when I was growing up and you go to a hockey game or a football game. You are there as a fan to be entertained. It is a fun thing. I think not everybody takes that the same way in swimming. I have always been a goofball. I like to have fun. I hate not having fun. I like making people laugh and have fun. Everyone needs to laugh, especially now, with all of the serious things people are dealing with.”

It was a dream Harting stuck with since childhood, and now he is headed to Tokyo.

After taking the top seed, with his Olympic hopes on the line, it was a tough 24 hours.

“I did absolutely terrible managing the stress. I had to force myself to eat. I knew what I was hear to do and I was here to win. I didn’t really eat last night or manage. I couldn’t fall asleep last night and my heart was beating out of my chest. Adrenaline woke me up from my nap. I wanted to puke after warm up. I don’t think I handled it well but I think I was going to win and it gave me a little peace so I focused on that,” Zach Harting said. “I’ve been overseas in 2018 and I’ve never really swam that well so 2018 was the first time I really stepped up for Nationals and we delivered at Pan Pacs and that was huge for me knowing I could hold the double taper. I’m going to be an Olympian and get the Olympic ring tattoo! Comin in here and not making the team was not an option.”

Only one swimmer with Olympic experience was in the final and that was Gunnar Bentz, and it was a relay spot. Bentz was in fifth place at the 150 mark and passed three swimmers to take the second spot in the event. He was head-to-head with Luca Urlando down the stretch and edged Urlando by about a half a stroke.

“On that last 50, I just knew it was going to be really close. I saw Luca right next to me and I knew I had to get my hands on the wall first. Luckily I came out on top. There’s a lot we can improve. I think Zach and I are going to be a lot faster in Tokyo,” Bentz said. “I’ve always been a back-half swimmer, and I think that stems from my club training at Dynamo. I trained with Jay Litherland all the growing way up since we were 12 years old and you know how he can finish races. We’ve just always been that way. And swimming down here in Texas, I think that’s just how I’ve always done it. I came out on top today, and Zach had a phenomenal race as well today.

Bentz finished in 1:55.34, less than a tenth of a second ahead of Urlando (1:55.43). NCAA champion in the event Nicholas Albiero took fourth in 1:55.85.

Trenton Julian took an early lead at the first turn and kept it for 100 before being overtaken on the back half of the race. He finished fifth in 1:56.35.

Corey Gambardella took sixth (1:56.79) ahead of Zach Brown (1:57.13) and Brooks Fail (1:57.53).

Top 8 Results in 200 Butterfly Final:

  1. Zach Harting, 1:55.06
  2. Gunnar Bentz, 1:55.34
  3. Luca Urlando, 1:55.43
  4. Nicholas Albiero, 1:55.85
  5. Trenton Julian, 1:56.35
  6. Corey Gambardella, 1:56.79
  7. Zach Brown, 1:57.13
  8. Brooks Fail, 1:57.53