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VaTech's Zach McGinniss Battles Epilepsy, the World

This week Virginia Tech's Zach McGinnis will take on the challenge of making a US National team at the USA Swimming 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships & World Championship Trials this week in Indianapolis.  It's a small battle for a man who has taken on a much bigger challenge - epilepsy.  McGinnis is a spokesperson for Athletes vs. Epilepsy.

McGinnis was diagnosed with epilepsy in the fall of 2012 after suffering two seizures in one week.

"Initially after my diagnosis, I was in shock and disbelief about what epilepsy could mean for my future both in sport and life. However, after many conversations with friends, family, and my neurologist my outlook on life became optimistic. I realized my situation would not end my career in the water. It is my lifelong journey to inspire others suffering from epilepsy and other illnesses to chase their life dreams and live a healthy and fulfilled life."

McGinnis is a Virginia Tech school record-holder in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke events as well as a 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) record-holder in the 100 backstroke and five-time Honorable Mention All-American. In addition, he placed on the All-ACC Academic team for three straight years and is a member of three relay events that hold school records. McGinnis was recognized with a Career Improvement Honor for the 2012-13 College Swimming season.

"It is an honor to compete among some of the best athletes in the world and to showcase the work I have put in both in and out of the water. This will be my first major competition as a professional athlete and I look forward to the challenge," McGinnis said.

Representing athletes living with epilepsy, McGinnis was joined by NFL player Geoff Pope, Team USA women's hockey goalie Chanda Gunn, and high school athlete Jake Grunberg in launching the foundation's Athletes vs. Epilepsy initiative in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

The Athletes vs. Epilepsy initiative offers athletes of all types the opportunity to support accelerating new therapies for people living with epilepsy and seizures through appearances and participation in athletic events at all levels. Pope and former college teammate Sam Estes, currently an executive/diplomatic protection agent with the U.S. government, are the co-chairs of the initiative.

This week, McGinnis will take to the pool alongside Olympic champions like Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, and Natalie Coughlin to compete for national titles while also helping to set the USA National Team lineup for the 2013 FINA World Championships July 16-August 4 in Barcelona, Spain.

Initiative Co-Chair and Super Bowl champion Geoff Pope said, "Zach's drive to become one of the best swimmers of our era is enough to make anyone proud; yet, his willingness to speak up publicly about his experiences with epilepsy speaks volume of his character. I'm proud that Zach has decided to join us in making Athletes vs. Epilepsy an overwhelming success!"

"Zach McGinnis is a role model in many ways—from his record-breaking performances in the pool to his excellent performance in the classroom. He is an inspiration to everyone who is struggling with epilepsy every day. Zach inspires us to continue the fight on behalf of all people living with epilepsy and to help make new therapies available in a timeframe that matters," said Philip M. Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, who has been instrumental in the launch of the Athletes vs. Epilepsy initiative.

"The Athletes vs. Epilepsy initiative is focused on awareness, endurance, and community in that it shows athletes as role models who are not being held back by epilepsy, but are giving back to the community in their support of the Epilepsy Foundation. And we hope to show that anyone can be an athlete taking on epilepsy. From high school basketball players to bowling league members, anyone can join the cause," Gattone added.