Prep Signing: North Rowan’s Lemmon goes from basketball to swim scholarship
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Basketball player Zach Lemmon was sitting the bench at North Rowan last season and the swim coach noticed.
The swim coach was Sallie Hundley, who happens to keep the scorebook for Andrew Mitchell’s boys team.
“He didn’t get a lot of playing time because of the wealth of talent we had,” Hundley said. “I teased him, ‘When are you going to decide you’re not a basketball player and you’re going to be a swimmer.”
Over the summer, the 6-foot-4 Lemmon made up his mind. He would be a water boy.
“I thought I’d give it a try and retire my basketball jersey,” Lemmon grinned.
Best decision of his life. Lemmon impressed Greensboro College coach Scott Budde enough that he was offered by the Division III school. He becomes the first Cavalier to ever garner a swim scholarship.
Now, Lemmon has his sights on something bigger.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Lemmon said. “It makes me want to work even harder. My ultimate goal is to win a national championship in Division III.”
That might sound like big talk coming from a kid who didn’t swim in high school until his senior season — and at the 1A level at that.
But Lemmon does have a background in the sport. He swam in Greensboro as a youth and with the Rowan Aquatics Club until the seventh grade.
It was as if he hadn’t missed a beat once swim season started. By the postseason, Lemmon was the Michael Phelps of the Yadkin Valley Conference.
In the league meet, he won the 100 freestyle in 54.73, six seconds better than the runnerup. In the 100 backstroke, he won with a time on 1:03, 14 seconds faster than the next competitior.
“Not to be cocky, but nobody could touch me there,” he said. “Anything I swam, I won.”
Hundley had no problem doing the bragging for him.
“He dominated our conference meet,” she said. “He swam whatever I needed him too.”
The lanky Lemmon also qualified for the regionals in the 50 free, the 100 breast and the medley relay. A swimmer can only compete in two events, so he went with his two sprints.
Lemmon eventually finished 12th in the state in the 100 backstroke.
Then, it was time to think of his future. Greensboro’s name came up.
“I have a friend who swims there and she asked me if I’d be interested,” Lemmon said. “I didn’t think I’d be good enough at first. I told the coach if he was interested to give me a call. He started e-mailing me and he came to watch me in the regionals.”
It didn’t take Lemmon long to accept an offer to the Pride program. “It’s kind of mind-blowing,” he said.
And why wouldn’t it be? He has to re-train his body for a new sport in a short period.
“You have to continuously work hard to get that muscle back in swing,” Lemmon said. “And we had limited time in the pool. About 40 minutes a practice. But (Budde) will expand it with two-a-days and weightlifting.”
Hundley shudders at Lemmon’s potential.
“It’s scary to think how good he could be or where he could’ve possibly gone if he had swam all four years,” she said.
Basketball now seems like a distant memory.
“I think it all turned out for the best,” Lemmon smiled.
And just think.
All it took was a little teasing from the basketball scorekeeper.