Zohra Ahsan

Staff Writer

A good swimmer must display perseverance, commitment, accountability, and courage. Victoria Zhang, a senior at High School North, has successfully illustrated and contributed all of these qualities throughout her swimming career. 

Zhang learned to swim at the early age of six at the request of her mother, who had suffered a drowning incident before Zhang had been born. She laughs, “I think she was like, ‘yeah, I should probably send her to swim, it’s an important skill.’” In her beginning years of swimming, Zhang had experienced a lack of interest in the sport, but began to grow a love for it over the course of time. “I think part of it is because I love competing. I started to love it because you can see all of the hard work you put into the sport, it really challenges you.”

She had first joined the high school team at North her freshman year, then, after taking a break her sophomore year, proceeded to rejoin in her junior and senior years. Additionally, she participates in the swimming club, Peddie, where she met her inspiration, Coach Emmett. “He was a really good swimmer as well, and more importantly, he’s a good person. He is so nice and cares for everyone,” Zhang expresses. She also mentions the unconditional support that her friends and family have shown throughout her swimming experience at North. They may not be swimming coaches, but they’re always there to support her and listen when she’s in doubt. 

“Swimming has not only made me physically stronger, but mentally too. The sport can be very harsh at times, especially when you put in so much effort,” Zhang says. Her best events are the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, and 100 fly. Out of the three, fly is her favorite. However, Zhang had found that on occasions, her attempts to get stronger had not progressed in the ways she had hoped. “It teaches me that not everything can be controlled, but as long as you do your best, that’s what really matters most.” 

This year, Zhang has been appointed as the North girl’s swim team captain. She has used her time and experience as a way to motivate and encourage the younger members, just like her past coaches. She expresses her fondness of this opportunity by saying, “it’s really fun cheering on the younger kids and being there to give them advice.” A fellow teammate, junior Jonathan Hu, commends her for her several generous attributes. “Victoria’s a great teammate not only because of how fast she is, but also because of her ability to uplift others. [She] definitely acts as a role model for younger swimmers because of how hard she works at practice. More importantly, Victoria acts as a guide for struggling swimmers – oftentimes giving them pointers on how to improve technique or racing strategy.”

A memory from 2018 when the High School North girls won NJSIAA Central Jersey, Public B Championship meet at Neptune Aquatic Center. Victoria Zhang (pictured top row, middle) is a freshman in this picture resembling her dedication and contribution to the team throughout her high school career. 

 Reflecting on her own time as an underclassmen, Zhang says her most memorable moments from being on the team at North are mainly from the County Championships the school had won during her junior and freshman years. Zhang remembers these opportunities earnestly as she indicates, “It was really awesome for the girls. All of us had put in so much effort for it, and it’s exciting to see our school stand out from the entire county.”

Even during the pandemic, Zhang has found herself training for both Peddie and the North swim team. “Although it’s unusual, I’m still glad we have the opportunity to swim, and I’m glad to see more underclassmen joining.” Specifically for North, Zhang states that swim practices have been cut to one hour, and social distancing is strongly practiced at both locations. When speaking about certain struggles during practice, Zhang explains the downside of social distancing. “It’s definitely necessary, but it can be hard to communicate. I’m a person who likes chatting with teammates during sets and when you can’t do that, it gets a little lonely at times.” Even with this, Zhang constantly communicates her appreciativeness for the chance to swim during this unprecedented time. 

Currently Zhang has been recruited to swim for Cornell University, where she additionally plans to pursue a career in engineering. She voices her future plans and says, “I mainly want to meet new people, find a new team environment, and also do well at Ivy League Championships. I want to make the most of my swimming career while I’m at college.” 

It is one thing for a person to go swimming with their friends on a summer day; however it is a whole different situation to be able to experience the competitive environment of swimming for school and club swim teams. Victoria Zhang’s commitment to this sport constitutes the common theme of dedication we see in students at North every day. With the same mindset and admiration at Cornell, Zhang is bound to do amazing things in her future.

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