Spotlight on Israel Outdoors Alumni – Everything’s Going Swimmingly

Here at Israel Outdoors we love to hear about what our alumni are up to. Zac T. participated in a Taglit-Birthright trip with Israel Outdoors one year ago in December of 2013. He’s a former competitive swimmer who trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

Where are you from?Toomay swimming2
Arroyo Grande, CA

Where do you live currently?
San Francisco, CA

What do you do now for a living?
Recent graduate from University of San Francisco: Major in Communication Studies, Double minor in African Studies and Dance (currently job hunting)

How long have you been swimming?
I swam competitively from ages 9 to 18 (2002-2011). I continue to swim for health maintenance.

Tell us more about some of your swimming accomplishments.

  • I was a regular qualifier of regional championships since age 12.
  • At 13, I was invited to spend one week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
  • At ages 15 and 16, I qualified and attended a few championship swim meets in Long Beach, CA which hosted some of USA’s 2008 Olympic medalists including Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers, Brenden Hanson, Ryan Lochte, Jason Lezak, Rebecca Soni, and Allison Schmitt.
  • I hold three high school records and attended CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Division II Championships all four years of high school. My best placing at CIF was 6th in the 100-yd backstroke.
  • My best events were the 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke, and 100 butterfly.

What is your favorite swim related story?
My favorite story happened when I was 13 in 2005 training at the Olympic Training Center. For one week, my teammates and I trained three times a day.  As the youngest of my team, I was feeling somewhat defeated at my performance in comparison to my high school-aged teammates. But on day 4, I was just out of the pool walking to the cafeteria with my athletic bag when I came across a group of primary school kids on a tour. As I got closer I could hear the tour guide saying, “Across this line is the cafeteria where all of the athletes wind down and meet each other for good food. Only the athletes are allowed to cross this line.”  As she said that, 30 tiny pairs of eyes watched me cross over the line to the cafeteria.  That was the first time I ever felt like a true athlete and role model.

Toomay Israel1Why did you decide to go on an Israel Outdoors trip?
I simply love to travel anywhere and everywhere so I could never pass up an opportunity for a free trip! I chose Israel Outdoors because I love hiking and staying active while abroad.

What was your favorite part of your Israel Outdoors Trip?
There was a jam-packed day that I’ll never forget. We started it off early hiking in the Golan Heights. Then migrated to the border of Syria where we had an intense snowball fight with another tour of teenage Israeli boys. After getting lunch, we visited a beautiful olive plantation and factory and had a tasting. We then headed to a spa resort in Tiberias where we soaked in the hot springs while watching the sunset. Later at the hotel, our incredible tour guide surprised us with a private concert from Gilad Vital, member of the Israeli band “שוטי הנבואה” (“Shotei Ha’nevuah”) or “The Fools of Prophecy”. After all that, one of our groups members’ birthday was at midnight so we danced the rest of the night away at the hotel bar! The day just seemed to get better and better without ever ending.

Anything else we should know about you?
When I stopped swimming, I took up a new hobby: dance. Having studied dance and trained at USF, I am currently in the process of exploring a professional gig as a modern dancer or an aerial artist. I will always be exploring the world. This year my partner, Ryan, and I are celebrating the Chinese New Year in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hanoi!