Five Maggie Walker Governor's School seniors have provided the leadership and helped the program almost double to 30 girl swimmers in the past four years.
* Kelly Zahalka: She is a captain and was last year's Central Region swimmer of the year along with being the Times-Dispatch co-swimmer of the year. She was an Olympic trials qualifier in the 400-meter IM and 500 freestyle. She is a year-round swimmer with NOVA and will be attending the Naval Academy in the fall.
* Gina Lenzi: The Green Dragons' other captain was a member of both region relay winning teams in 2003 and the region 100 butterfly champion that year.
* Lauren Milliron: She finished sixth with the 400-freestyle relay team last year in the state Group AAA meet. She has been a member of all the Dragons relay teams during the past three seasons. She is a year-round swimmer with Poseidon and also will attend the Naval Academy.
* Lindsey Strachan: Also a member of the 400-freestyle relay team. She was a qualifier for the state Group AAA meet in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. She swims year-round with Poseidon.
* Meg Ryan:
Another Dragons veteran who brings experience in the relays.
Swimming isn't big when it comes to high school competition, but don't try to tell that to the five seniors on the Maggie Walker Governor's School team.
They are unofficial ambassadors for the sport, and at least at their school, they have helped the girls program more than double in size.
Captains Kelly Zahalka and Gina Lenzi are two of the seniors who have spent four years swimming for the Green Dragons.
Along with MWGS, there are only four other public schools in the area that have swim teams: Hanover, Patrick Henry, Lee-Davis and Atlee.
In Central Region competition, the Dragons own wins over Patrick Henry, Hanover and Lee-Davis. At 3-3, their losses came to Collegiate, St. Catherine's and Trinity.
MWGS closes its regular season tomorrow (12:30 p.m.) against Atlee at Burkwood.
The region meet is scheduled for Riverside Health and Fitness/Briarwood on Jan. 29 at 12:30 p.m.
"It's been a treat coaching these girls," Dragons coach Rob Sultzer said. "They'll swim in every event you put them in."
Although Zahalka is primed for the more high-powered level of swimming she does with NOVA, no way does swimming with her school take a back seat.
"I love high school swimming," the Naval Academy-bound Zahalka said. "It's fun and more kicked back without the pressure.
"Coach Sultzer is really laid back. Obviously, he wants to win, but he wants us to have fun."
As a team captain, Zahalka has several duties with the Dragons, and some deal with students not in the swim program.
"I try to be a spirit leader, promote interest around school and get more students out to see us swim," she said.
Born in Missouri, Zahalka began swimming when she was 2 and started competitively when she moved to Illinois at 4. She began swimming with NOVA when she was 7.
Her swim schedule allows her about two weeks off in August. The fall season begins in September and runs to school preseason workouts in November.
The high school season then carries her to January or early February, but then it's back to full time with NOVA.
Zahalka has made three trips to the nationals with her travel teams, most recently last summer when she went to Stanford University.
"I placed 16th in the 200 IM," Zahalka said. "It's fun. You get to swim outdoors. We don't get to swim outdoors too much. Swimming has been a great experience for me.
"The confidence my coaches have shown in me really helps and the experience meeting people and getting to travel . . . it's like an introduction to life."
When she was younger, Zahalka played some soccer and did gymnastics, but the time needed to develop her swimming skills didn't permit a multisport agenda.
While Zahalka does plan to swim at the Naval Academy, Lenzi will attend the University of Virginia. She doesn't plan on trying to swim with the Cavaliers, but she may keep up with the sport through club swimming.
The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 proved to be the spark that got the 17-year-old Lenzi more serious about swimming.
Contact Vic Fulp at (804) 649-6556 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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