Maria Volodkevich, eight-time swim champ, strives to serve country

November 27, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Andi Scarcello, Maria Volodkevich, Kristaley Umezawa and Stephanie Muñoz (from left) enjoy their moment on the podium as the Skyline High School 200-yard medley relay team celebrates their state 4A championship title Nov. 10 in Federal Way. By Greg Farrar

Maria Volodkevich has always been a team player.

It was teammates who motivated her, at age 6, to dive headfirst into competitive swimming. Seven of her eight state titles were for team relay events, and it’s the aspiration of being a part of something greater than herself that motivates the Skyline High School senior to pursue a military career.

“I prefer winning in a team atmosphere,” Volodkevich said. “I’d rather come out of the pool winning with three other girls because that is more exciting than winning by yourself. It’s all of our work coming together to pay off instead of just one person.”

It was the group of girls that she started swimming with as a child, she said, that kept her in the sport. And looking back over her nearly 12-year career in the pool, that’s a good thing.

Volodkevich was a freshman when she won the 2009 Washington 4A swimming state championship in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 4.25 seconds. For the next four years, that would be her only individual state title. She went on to swim as a member of seven state championship relay teams, including the 400 freestyle relay in 2009 through 2011, the 200 freestyle relay in 2009 and the 200 medley relay teams in 2010 through 2012.

Volodkevich also holds Skyline’s school record for the 100 breaststroke, 200 freestyle relay, 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.

This year’s state swim meet marked the end of her high school swimming career. But Volodkevich is far from being finished in the pool. She already has her application in at the United States Air Force and Naval academies as well as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

She went on a recruiting trip earlier this fall to observe the Air Force Academy’s swim team.

“They are the type of people I’d like to be around,” Volodkevich said about her possible next teammates, explaining that they are active and even after tough practices are up for things like hiking. She also likes how they practice.

“It was more about quality verses quantity … they were more about training walls, and starts and stroke mechanics, rather than just swimming back and forth,” she said.

Serving as an officer in the military has been Volodkevich’s dream for many years — her family history is steeped in the armed services. Her father was a Marine Corps officer for three years; both of her grandfathers fought in World War II. Her paternal grandfather, Peter Volodkevich, graduated from the Leningrad Military Medical Academy in the former Soviet Union and was sent to the front lines. Having subsequently been caught by the Germans, he eventually survived POW camp.

Serving as a naval frogman, her mother’s father, John Gee, landed on Utah Beach in the D-Day invasion. Sixty-six years later, Maria visited Normandy and walked on the same beach where her grandfather had fought.

“That was the big decision point in my desire to attend a military academy,” she said. “I want to give back to those that gave their lives … I want to be more than a regular person going to college.”

Dianne Hogle, a guidance counselor at Skyline, said Maria Volodkevich is the only student who has ever told her that her No. 1 reason for going to an academy is to serve her country. Usually, she explained, it’s for the excitement or the opportunity to travel.

“For Maria, it’s the perfect fit because she loves a challenge. She always rises to the occasion,” said Hogle, who helped Volodkevich organize a weeklong seminar at each academy last summer. “Maria is going to do something really special in the world. I am not sure yet what that is. But I totally expect to be reading about her in the paper in the next 10 years.”

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