Ashburn, Va. — Rock Ridge High School senior Gabby Zhang has made a commitment to continue her swimming career at The College of William & Mary beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year.
“I chose William and Mary because of their outstanding academics and phenomenal swim team,” the 5-foot-2 Zhang said. “When I first stepped foot on campus, I fell in love with the environment and team atmosphere. The coaches made the recruiting process so easy and fun, and the team was tremendously welcoming and supportive.”
That support was extremely important in Zhang’s decision as the stress of getting recruited and maintaining good academic standing can be overwhelming.
“The college recruiting process for swimming starts your junior year, and junior year is considered the hardest year [academically]in high school, so it can be a very stressful time,” Zhang said. “That’s why I’m so glad I’ve found a school I love. Knowing William and Mary will be my home for the next four years really eases any stress that I have in my school life right now, and that’s something that I’m really thankful for.”
Having a place to call home is certainly a relief, but Zhang has her work cut out for her before joining the Division I Tribe swim team. William & Mary’s women’s swimming and diving team – which includes Briar Woods High School graduate Yuka Kuwahara (2016) – is currently 9-2 including a 3-1 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“I’m really spirited, and William and Mary has an amazing team-environment; they have so much pride and truly love swimming for the Tribe and that’s something that really caught my eye,” said Zhang, who plans to swim the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events. “I can’t wait to cheer on William & Mary and rep the Tribe when I swim for them.”
Before joining the Tribe, Zhang will enjoy one more season cheering on her Phoenix teammates. Rock Ridge is currently 4-1 on the season, earning wins against Potomac District opponents Tuscarora, Stone Bridge, Broad Run and Potomac Falls.
“High school swim is something I love because of the team spirit; you’re swimming for your team rather than yourself. That’s something I look forward to most in college swimming,” said Zhang, who swims competitively for Nation’s Capital Swim Club. “Rock Ridge swim has been so successful in my time being on the team. My first year in high school was the first year the school itself existed. We had state qualifiers every year the team existed, and last year, our girls team was VHSL 4A State runners-up, and our girls 400-yard relay got first in the state which was so amazing to be a part of.”
While Zhang gets to swim at Rock Ridge for just one final season, her 10-plus year swimming journey is far from over.
“I actually was so scared of swimming when I first started, I literally cried at every single lesson I took. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life without it,” Zhang said. “I love how I have a second family from swimming – my teammates are some of my closest friends. Having supportive and caring teammates, coaches, family and friends really helps motivate me.”