Giller bounces back to win another national championship
After a subpar performance at the 2016 YMCA Short Course National Championship in April, Robby Giller didn’t spend much time dwelling on his disappointment.
He just went right back to work.
And it paid off as the Wilton High rising senior bounced back with an elite showing at the 2016 YMCA Long Course National Championship in Indianapolis, Ind., during the last week of July.
Giller was the national champion in the 400-meter individual medley, making him a two-time winner at the meet. Last summer, he took first the 800-meter freestyle at Y nationals.
He also had three other top-five finishes, taking third in both the 1500 and 800 freestyle events, and fifth in the 400 freestyle. For the second straight year, he was part of the Wilton Y Wahoos’ winning 800 freestyle relay team, and he swam on three other relays that finished in the top five.
“I think it was a really good meet,” said Giller. “It definitely sets me up well for the short course season.”
Giller won the 400 IM in dominating fashion, beating his closest competitor by more than nine seconds with a time of 4:26.69. He missed the YMCA national record by just .12 of a second.
All in all, he produced personal-best times in all four individual events. He swam a 3:59.75 in the 400 free, 8:18.64 in the 800 free, and 15:42.97 in the 1500 free — a drop of 12 seconds from his previous best time. He also had a personal-best in the 200 freestyle (1:55.22) swimming the first leg of the 800 free relay.
For Giller, is was a great way to come back from a tough early part of the year, when he was often sick and fell behind on his training leading up to the short course nationals.
“I wasn’t really getting into the shape I wanted to or practicing at a really high level,” he said.
Right before before short course nationals in early April, he traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., for the 2016 Speedo Sectionals meet, trying to hit Olympic Trial qualifying times in the 400 IM, 400 freestyle and 1500 freestyle. Then he flew right to the short course nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
“I was exhausted. I was running on fumes,” he recalled. Giller finished eighth in both the 400 IM and 1000 freestyle, and 14th in the 500 freestyle, and was at least two seconds off his seed time in all three events.
“I didn’t do as well as I hoped,” said Giller, who returned home and immediately went back to training with the Wahoos.
“We wasted no time getting back into shape. That really helped me in August,” he said. “I really wanted to redeem myself with a good meet. I felt like I did that.”
Giller’s times in the 400 IM and 1500 freestyle at Y nationals both hit the qualifying time for the 2016 Olympic Trials. While it was a month too late to compete at the trials, which were held in late June, it was was major achievement.
“I really wanted to hit those times,” he said.
Giller was unable to repeat at the national championships in the 800 meters, which was his 12th event of the Y long course meet. But he still managed to finish third with a time that was more than three seconds faster than a year ago, which at the time had set a new YMCA national record.
At Y nationals he also had placed second in the 1500 freestyle and third in both the 400 IM and 400 freestyle.
For Giller, last year’s long course nationals was the highlight of his career, with the wins in the 800 freestyle and 800 freestyle relay.
“We won the 800 freestyle relay the night before I won the 800 freestyle. That was the first time I won an event at Y nationals and the first time the Wahoos had won a relay at Y nationals in a long time. That was really cool, to be part of that,” he said. “It was definitely a turning point. It made me relevant in the Y swimming world.”
Growing up, Giller was a three-sport athlete, playing lacrosse and football along with swimming. In the eighth grade, he realized that swimming was his best sport and began to focus on that year-round. He saw immediate results, and that year had better finishes as a 13-year-old in the 13-14 age group than he did as a 12-year-old in the 11-12 age group.
“By the end of eighth grade, I was one of the fastest swimmers in my age group,” he said.
Giller currently holds five Connecticut or Connecticut resident records in the 15-16 age group, ranging from the 400 freestyle to the 1500 freestyle. He also holds the Connecticut record in the 17-18 age group in the 200 freestyle.
Giller has plans to swim on the Division-I level in college. He said interest from colleges became a little “iffy” after his showing at the short course nationals, and that last week’s performance helped put him back on the radar screen.
Giller said turning in great times and getting the attention of colleges was a key motivator going into last week’s meet.
“I wanted to show I can do some great things,” he said, “and I think I did prove that.”