Senior Abby Galbreath had given it her all during the 200 IM finals at the Swimming State Championships in Canton, Ohio, on Feb. 27. As she stood on the podium, it was clear that all of her hard work had paid off. A gold medal hung around her neck, and a huge smile was spread across her face.
Galbreath said she was unimaginably excited once she realized she had reached a longtime goal by winning at State. “I was really happy,” she said. “I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole day.”
Galbreath wasn’t the only one excited. “I was so proud of her,” Head Swim Coach Steve Hippenmeyer said. “She seemed to relish in winning the title for Fairmont. For me, I had to fight back the tears. I lost the fight, though.”
Galbreath had qualified to go to state her junior year, and it was important to her to return her senior year to accomplish her mission. “She has steadily progressed over her four years in high school, each year moving up another step on the state podium,” Hippenmeyer said.
In addition to being state champion in the 200 IM with a time of 2:03.58 this year, Galbreath placed third in the 500 free at 4:56.16. However, before the state meet came into play, she had to qualify at the district level. “I was really happy I qualified for State,” she said. “The district meet is always very fast; I was glad I made it my last year.
Started at a young age
Galbreath had spent thousands of hours in the pool training for this moment. In fact, swimming has been a huge part of Galbreath’s life since she was about 7 years old. “The people are always fun, and I love the satisfaction of having your hard work pay off,” she said.
It wasn’t the first jump in the pool that made Galbreath realize she had a talent for swimming, though. It took a comparison to a fellow swimmer to solidify that she really had a gift. “There was a girl I swam against that I considered to be very fast,” she said. “I kind of knew I might have a talent when I beat her at a meet.”
Hippenmeyer considers Galbreath one of the most unique athletes he has ever worked with. “She has a strong work ethic and dedication to the sport,” he said. “She is in the water practicing about 20 hours per week.”
Along with swimming four years for Fairmont, Galbreath swam for the Christopher Club swim team and the Key swim team and currently swims with the Dayton Raiders.
As for Fairmont’s swim team, she has left some notable accomplishments. “I broke the 200 IM record my freshman year,” she said. She has continued to break her own record several times. The Individual Medley race encompasses four different strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Galbreath said the breaststroke is her favorite stroke because it catches her up the most in this race.
Swimming runs in the family
Galbreath wasn’t the first member of her family to find success in the swimming pool. After seeing her brother, Justin Galbreath, swim at a young age, she wanted to give it a try, too. He graduated from Fairmont in 2006 and is her biggest inspiration. “He kept swimming even if he didn’t have the best times,” she said.
Hippenmeyer sees many similarities between the two siblings. “Both were able to transcend the natural barrier between club and high school swimming by becoming fixtures and mainstays in the high school program,” he said. “Both were outgoing, caring athletes who seemed to enjoy being around swimmers of all abilities.”
Now that the high school swimming season is over, Galbreath is happy with her season, but has mixed feelings about it being over. “It’s just weird. Swimming was always something I looked forward to in high school,” she said.
While swimming consumes a lot of Galbreath’s life, she also excels in the classroom. “The same qualities that make her one of the top swimmers in the state also make her a great student. She has so little free time that she has to be organized,” Hippenmeyer said
Goals for the future
Galbreath will swim for the University of South Carolina next year. She will attend under a full scholarship for swimming. She also received partial offers from West Virginia and Ohio University. “I chose South Carolina because the coach reminded me of my high school coach,” she said.
When told this, Hippenmeyer said, “It seems she must be caught up in wanting to punish herself even more.”
While Galbreath has a lot of goals for her collegiate career, her ultimate ambition is to swim in the NCAA championship meet. However, she knows this will be tough. “The times are really fast,” she said.
However, there is no doubt in Hippenmeyer’s mind that Galbreath will excel on the collegiate level. “She is joining the top swimming conference in the country. It will only make her better,” he said.
While swimming will clearly be a part of her near future, Galbreath is undecided about her major. However, she has a general idea of what she will be doing in 10 years. “I just see myself having a good job, starting a happy life and if that includes swimming, so be it.”
Looking back on his experience coaching Galbreath, Hippenmeyer simply describes her as a class act. “She understands what high school sports are intended to be … an extension of the classroom,” he said. “At every instance, she has represented Fairmont in a way that would make every teacher, student, administrator, coach and community member proud.”