St. Augustine Prep senior Paul Gallagher went from being a non-swimmer to winning the 100 freestyle state championship in just three years.

Gallagher, a Linwood resident, switched from basketball to swimming after his freshman year at the Prep, and this year emerged as the top scorer of a Hermits team with numerous stars.

He won the 100-yard freestyle title at the state Individual Swimming Championships, called the Meet of Champions, on March 7 at Gloucester County Institute of Technology.

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His time was 46.68 seconds. Gallagher, 18, the only Cape-Atlantic League boy to win a state title, is The Press' Boys Swimmer of the Year.

"It feels great, I worked hard for it," said Gallagher of his selection.

"I'm happy to win at the Meet of Champions. Last year, I was a little afraid of the 100 freestyle, because it's going to hurt. But this year I said, ‘Why not make it hurt all the way.' I didn't mind the pain so much. I like the 100 better than the 50 freestyle because you can correct your mistakes."

St. Augustine coach Jon Stinson suggested to Gallagher that he go out for swimming in his sophomore year, and he joined and was part of an undefeated state champion. Last winter Gallagher was a Press first-team All-Star.

"It's definitely a little surprising that he's progressed that far in three years," Stinson said.

"He's a good kid and a good leader. There's definitely no complaints about Paul Gallagher. He's just a hard worker who knows what he has to do. He listens well and he tries to get better. He's done a lot of stuff out of the water, because he enjoys it. It's a lot of little things."

Gallagher is looking at several colleges and is undecided at this point where he wants to go.

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