Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Student Sails to U.S. Development Team

Despite being raised on a cattle farm in land-locked Lexington, Ky., Leah Volk (MSB ’11) has managed to dominate the water. She and her skipper Sydney Bolger (COL ’12) were recently appointed to the 2011 U.S. Sailing Development Team in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. They will be sailing a 470, the Olympic boat most like the one they race at Georgetown. Though her days are filled with an International Business and Finance major, French minor and daily sailing practice, Volk found time to sit with THE HOYA to discuss her experiences with Georgetown sailing and her excitement about her new team.

How did you get involved in sailing at Georgetown?

I actually walked onto the team. I didn’t know how to sail before. I saw the table set up in Red Square, and I’m not a very spontaneous person, but I decided I’d try it out. I went to practice. You fill out this form – it’s literally name, height, weight and if you’ve been on a team before. The coach has you come out to practice just to see if it’s something you want to do. I went to the first one, and there was no wind. We literally floated around for a while. I was like, `What is this sport?’ The whole team was like, `No, you have to try it again and come back tomorrow.’ I went back the next day. I had fun. It was nice to have a good time, but I didn’t really know if it was something I wanted to do. I decided I would just keep trying. I just kept going, and the next thing I knew I was on the team, going to work out, fully involved in everything.

What is your role on the sailing team?

I’m the co-captain of the co-ed team this year. Last year, I was co-captain of the women’s team. I’m also on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. It’s the student athletic activities board. I’m part of the outreach committee on that.

What are your other extracurricular activities at Georgetown?

Sailing is my main one. It takes up a lot of time. Basically sailing and SAAC. We do Special Olympics in the spring for sailing. Once a week, all during April and May, kids come down and we take them out sailing. A lot of them are really good too. We teach them if they need to be taught. If not, we just hang out with them and spend the day.

How do you balance sailing with academics and extracurricular activities? How will your new appointment affect that?

It’s definitely going to be harder, because now, instead of just having Georgetown sailing and school, I have Georgetown sailing, school and the Olympic team. Over Christmas break, Sydney, who is my skipper, and I are going to Miami, basically for the whole thing. I’ll be home for four days, but other than that, we’ll be training in Miami. Then, regattas are actually during the school year, so I’ll be missing a week at the end of January for ORC [Offshore Racing Conference], which is a huge regatta in Miami.

Time management skills are extremely important, just prioritizing. Working whenever I can, even if that means the 15 minutes between class[es], just doing whatever work I can get done. I don’t have a lot of extra time.

Were you expecting to be invited onto the U.S. Development Team? Was it ever something you thought about happening?

No, it was never something I ever imagined. I joined the team just as an extracurricular activity. I was like, `This is something that will be fun. It’s great to be on a team.’ I was a soccer player all throughout high school, so the team aspect for me is really important. I fell in love with the sport. It’s so nice to get out on the water. It’s definitely a hard sport, and it’s been one that’s really challenged me. With sailing, you’re always constantly learning. You never know everything about sailing. The conditions are always changing, whether it’s the wind or the current. It was challenging, which I really liked.

From there, it worked out: good time, good place. Sydney needed a crew, and it worked out because I’m the right height. We had the same priorities. She was like, `We should apply for this,’ so we looked at the application process. You’re selected to apply, and then you have to fill out a resume with your sailing accomplishments. Then, they let you know if you got accepted or not.

The boat for the Olympic team is different than the one we sail at Georgetown. I had never been in it before October. Literally, we went to a clinic in Miami, and it was my first time in the boat. There are techniques called trapping and setting the spliticer, and I had never done those two things before. It’s been constantly learning new things, but it’s good. I like never being comfortable with it. It’s learning and growing with it.

Do you have any other plans for after graduation?

I’m looking for a job that will let me do both. I was in the city this summer, and I would love to be back there and just sailing whenever I can. I know Sydney wants to do a lot of regattas this summer in Europe, so we’ll go do that too.

What is your favorite memory at Georgetown? What will you miss the most?

I’ll definitely miss my teammates the most. I think my favorite memory was walking across the Key Bridge with them to go to the Duke game during this blizzard. That was just crazy. Snowpocalypse: That was a good time.

What is the most interesting or exotic place sailing has taken you or that you would like to sail?

On the Georgetown sailing team, I’ve been to a lot of different places in the country that I would never have been to, like Hobart’s in the middle of nowhere, upstate New York and St. Mary’s College in Maryland. All these places are on the water, so they’re all really pretty. They’re just smaller towns that I would never have gotten to visit. I’m really looking forward to going to Europe. That will be really cool, just being in a foreign country and sailing. Combining the two is going to be a lot of fun.

– Interview conducted by Mariah Byrne

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