Zoey Zeller, an incoming Gilroy High senior and a South Valley Makos swimmer, has made a verbal commitment to swim for Auburn University. File photo.

Division I college programs pursued Zoey Zeller in much the same manner she swims in a race: all-out.

The incoming Gilroy High senior recently made a verbal commitment to Auburn University, whose women’s team finished seventh out of 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championships last season. The SEC, of course, is one of the top conferences in the nation. 

“I’m super excited and I love Auburn so much,” Zeller said. “On my visit there, the team seemed to really get along, the coaches were great and the facilities were really nice.”

Zeller made official visits to Louisville, Nebraska and Missouri before her Auburn visit, which blew her away. She had a fifth visit to Utah lined up, but canceled it after her Auburn experience. 

“I really enjoyed all those visits, but Auburn was my favorite,” she said.

Zeller, who swims under Tom Lebherz and South Valley Makos Swim Club in Morgan Hill, continually posts fast times and last summer finished 14th in the 200 breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Zeller recently completed a superb high school season in which she won the 100 breaststroke (1:01.74) and 200 individual medley (1:59.48) in the Central Coast Section Championships. 

She followed that up with a second-place finish in the IM (1:59.81) and fourth-place finish in the breast (1:01.59) in the CIF State Championships. 

“I was pretty proud of how I did at CCS and how I dropped some time there,” Zeller said. “At state, I thought the races could’ve been better, but overall I’m happy how the high school season turned out.”

During this year’s club season, Zeller has established PRs in the short-course yards 50/100/200 freestyle, 100/200 backstroke, 100/200 breast, and the 200 IM, 200 free and 200 back in long course meters, according to SwimSwam College Recruiting News. 

Additionally, at this year’s Far Westerns, Zeller won the 100 back (55.94), 100 breast (1:02.13) and 200 breast (2:11.21) while finishing runner-up in the 200 back (2:02.49). Zeller’s best 200 breast time would’ve qualified her for the B Final in last year’s SEC Championships. 

It shows the level of competition Zeller will be facing and what she’ll need to do to qualify for an A Final in her college career. Zeller visited Auburn in October and everything was great from her end. Zeller was hoping Auburn would see her as a nice fit to their program as well. Apparently, they did. 

“After the visit I’m sure they talk as a team about if they liked the recruits that came in,” she said. “They need to know if your personality is going to mesh well together with the rest of the team. Obviously, if they invite you in for a visit, they like you swimming-wise. Then through the calls they get to know you a little bit and then you get to know each other a little more during the visit.”

Zeller’s times in all of her events should only drop because she’s improved her turns. High school and NCAA competitions are typically short course yards competitions, though Olympic swimming is done in long course meters. 

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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