It was four years ago that Zack Miller-Hogg, now a senior swimmer at Flowery Branch High, was first introduced to the sport.
Sure, he had hit the pool over summer break in the past, but he had never raced competitively. It didn’t take long to realize it was something worth pursuing.
In his very first time competing in the 200-yard freestyle, he recorded a time that qualified him for the state meet.
“I didn’t really realize what the time meant at first,” he said. “But when they told me I had qualified for state, I realized it was a pretty big deal. I guess it sort of came natural.”
Now, Miller-Hogg is once again preparing for the state meet that opens on Friday at Georgia Tech. He will compete in the 100 freestyle, 200, 200 freestyle relay and 400 relay. He qualified for three other individual events, but will not take part in them, due to the limit of events one athlete can compete.
For Miller-Hogg, simply being involved in the sport is a matter of some luck.
As a freshman in high school, he had no indication that swimming was something he would be good at. He joined the team, he said, because his mom wanted him to be more involved at the school.
“She thought (swimming) would be the best fit for me,” he said.
Turns out she was right.
Over the course of his four years on varsity, Miller-Hogg has set school records in every event. He had a personal best 11th-place finish in the 100 freestyle at state a year ago.
Flowery Branch coach Valerie Lancaster said that she attributes his success to a natural ability.
“It’s just a natural, God-given ability,” she said. “I think he has the natural ability to be outstanding at whatever sports he wants. And he’s used that ability to have some success in the pool. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone get in the pool and pick it up so quickly.”
Despite the natural ability, it wasn’t until this season that Lancaster saw her swimmer begin to reach his potential.
For three years, Miller-Hogg got by on his raw ability, but this season, she said, he has coupled that with an improved drive and work ethic.
“Once he figured out that he had something that most people don’t, he really started to focus,” she said. “We stressed how much potential he had if he put his mind to it this year. And I think he realized that if he was doing so well when he wasn’t completely focused on it, he could be that much better if he was.”
Miller-Hogg agreed that his attention to the sport escalated in his senior season.
“This year is the hardest I’ve ever worked,” he said. “I’m not saying I didn’t work hard before. It just wasn’t as hard as I could have. And I wish I had worked a little harder. When you get to this stage, you realize there is a lot more competition at the next level.”
Because that’s where he’d like to go.
He has his eyes set on being a personal trainer, noting that, outside of swimming, going to the gym is basically all he does.
And having a college scholarship for his ability in the pool would go a long way to helping him get there.
He said that he knows the only way that can happen is by impressing scouts at the state meet and continuing to improve.
“I really have to work extra hard,” he said. “That’s what I try to keep my mentality as.”
Lancaster echoed his words.
“I think there’s even a little more maturing he can do,” she said.
This weekend, he is aiming to finish in the top three at the state meet. He is seeded in the top 10 in both the 200 and 100 freestyle.
“If I can make the top three, that impresses some colleges,” he said. “It would be huge. I wouldn’t even know how to react.”
Both he and Lancaster noted that he has been in the pool preparing basically every day over the past two weeks.
“I just want to do the best I can,” he said. “That’s all I can hope for.”