Zach Shattuck has only been swimming competitively for two years.
Over the weekend, the Frostburg State rising junior competed for a spot on the United States Paralympic Team at the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Swim trials June 30-July 2 in Charlotte, N.C. Shattuck finished with four gold medals and set two new Paralympic American records for his S6 class.
"It's a really cool feeling," Shattuck said. "Coming from where I was two years ago and not swimming at all to now saying I was one of the fasted swimmers in the U.S., that's pretty cool."
An athlete with a Sport Class 6 physical impairment includes swimmers with short stature or amputations of both arms, and moderate co-ordination problems on one side of their body.
Shattuck, who was born with dwarfism, competed in the 100-meter breaststroke, 50 freestyle, 200 individual medley and the 100 free. His goal, he said, was to reach personal best times in each event.
He did so with ease.
Shattuck, a South Carroll graduate and multi-sport athlete, said he is most dominant in the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle. It deemed fitting, as such, because he earned gold in those events on the first and second day of the trials. He dropped more than 34 seconds in the breaststroke when he finished in 1:32.36.
On the final day, Shattuck won two gold medals — he set an American record in the 200 individual medley (3:01.09). Shortly after, he captured another gold-medal finish and record in the 100 free (1:13.73).
Shattuck's performance had him contending for a spot on the U.S team that heads to Rio in September for the Paralympic Summer Games. But Shattuck said his world ranking, compared to others in his classification, left him in 11th place for a team that takes the top 10.
(Shattuck said he's considered an alternate for the Games.)
"I couldn't be more proud of all Zach has accomplished at trials and in the past 20 months. He only started swimming competitively over 20 months ago and I believe he is on pace to be one of the best in the world," Frostburg coach Justin Anderson said in a recent article on Frostburg's athletics website. "He makes us all proud to be Bobcats."
When Shattuck competed in the Dwarf Athletic Association of America National Games in Boston two years ago, his parents recommended that he talk to Anderson about joining the Bobcats' swim team. Shattuck initially thought he would only be allowed to assist the team but when Anderson offered him a spot on the roster, he couldn't resist.
Shattuck said it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
Anderson got certified as a paralympic coach following Shattuck's sophomore season, and the pair traveled to Charlotte last weekend for the paralympic trials.
"I continued to practice every day and my coach continued to push me," Shattuck said. "Having him down there with me was really helpful and it was definitely good to have someone there to talk to and be helpful."
During the Capital Athletic Conference Championships in February of 2015, Shattuck broke American Paralympic records in the 50, 200 and 500 freestyle.
He competed in the Parapan American Games and the CanAm Para Swimming championships, both in Toronto, in December 2015. Shattuck earned silver in the 4x50 mixed relay and bronze in the 100 backstroke at the Parapan games. He swam to gold in the 50 free and 100 free in the CanAm championships, and earned silver medals in the 100 back and 400 free.
"Swimming was not on the radar at all when I was growing up," Shattuck said. "I loved swimming, not necessarily racing, but playing around. I played soccer and wrestled in high school and swimming was something where an opportunity happened and I went for it."
Shattuck is currently attending his fifth National Games in Boston, part of a nonprofit organization that provides support and information to people of short stature and their families. There, he competes in different sports and events that take place during the week-long occasion.
Shattuck plans to swim with the Bobcats for a third season this fall and train for international competitions in the coming years. He has yet to hit any major roadblocks in his journey, he said.
"Representing Carroll is pretty awesome because that's where I grew up," Shattuck said. "As you read the papers and see stories and know that you're a part of that, it puts the name out there for the county and helps people be aware that you can come from anywhere."
His journey is only just beginning.
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