When he was four years old, David Zenk’s mother took him to get swimming lessons because she was afraid that he would drown. Seventeen years later, Zenk’s is doing more than just staying afloat.
As a junior, Zenk stars for both GW’s men’s swimming and water polo teams. Last year, he led the water polo squad in points, while taking first place and setting Atlantic 10 records for the 200 and 400 individual medleys in swimming in the same season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Zenk said of playing two sports. “I love playing water polo. I love all the guys on both teams and the girls on the swim team too.”
Zenk has 64 points this season for the water polo team and leads the club in nearly every statistical category. He won the 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard backstroke at last weekend’s Navy Pod Meet.
Though he does not attend both teams’ practices in a single day, Zenk, who plays driver for water polo team and swims backstroke in addition to the medleys, said that the parts of the year when both teams are in season are strenuous.
“It’s especially tough transitioning seasons,” he said. “I leave the water polo team, and they get the rest of the year off and I have to jump back in the pool for swim season. That’s probably the toughest time of the year, when everybody else gets to take a break and I still have to get up early.”
Zenk grew up in St. Louis and started swimming competitively at the age of six. When he enrolled in the St. Louis Country Day School, his coach convinced him to try water polo. Zenk said he enjoyed the sport from the start, taking his team to three state championships. His senior year, Zenk was also named athlete of the year for the state of Missouri.
“I’ve always been in the pool and water polo just came naturally,” he said. “The ability to swim helped me get into it a lot easier than most other people. They have to learn how to swim before they can start to play the sport effectively, so I got a little head start on that.”
Those swimming skills have paid off for the water polo squad. He holds GW’s single-season record for swim-offs, water polo’s equivalent of a tip-off, with 72 won in the 2006 season. The skill gives his team at least an extra possession every quarter, he noted.
“It’s definitely a big advantage being a faster swimmer,” Zenk said. “You gain advantages way easier on counterattacks, and I’ve got a lot of goals (by) beating everyone else down the pool and then just having to beat the goalie on a shot.”
Zenk said the fact that GW would allow him to play two sports at the collegiate level was a big selling point during the college selection process.
Though he said that he enjoys water polo more, Zenk has been more than competitive in the swim lane. He was named A-10 rookie of the year his freshman year, when he also took performer of the meet honors at the A-10 Championship and broke conference records last year. With those results, it is hard to argue that Zenk is speading himself too thinly.