Is it too on the nose to say that Georgia Johnson and Shay Walker get along... swimmingly?
The Mountain View High School juniors have been friends for as long as they can remember. They car-pool together to practices at Nation’s Capital Swim Club in the Washington area.
And they pooled their talents as sophomores to help the Wildcats win the Commonwealth District team title and place fifth in the Class 5 state meet.
“They’re definitely two peas in a pod,” Mountain View coach Michelle Stambaugh said. “A rivalry could turn ugly, but I don’t foresee that ever happening.”
Not given the lifelong bond between Johnson and Walker. Their fathers, both Marines, became friends and settled in Stafford County before either was born.
Both started swimming at an early age (Johnson first), and they’re now nearly inseparable, in and out of the pool. Both swam on Mountain View’s district-winning 200-yard medley and 400 freestyle relays last winter.
“Shay is super reliable,” Johnson said. “You can always count on her 100 percent to put the effort in. When she’s on the blocks, you know it’s going to be a good race.”
Johnson is coming off a strong sophomore season in which she placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke and fifth in the 200 individual medley at the state meet. Walker was close behind Johnson in the breaststroke, placing eighth in the state, and was ninth in the 50 freestyle.
Both have goals of improving those positions in their junior seasons. They started well, with Johnson winning the breast and IM in Tuesday’s season-opening dual meet against North Stafford and Walker winning the 100 butterfly and placing second in the IM.
“It’s really fun,” Walker said. “We always prop each other up.”
Each swimmer is dominant in her separate specialties, but the one event in which they butt heads is the breaststroke. Johnson has usually been faster, but not always.
“It can be a little nerve-wracking, who’s going to win,” Walker said. “But it’s such a friendly competition. We really push each other and want the other to do her best.”
Club swimming is a time-consuming commitment that doesn’t always allow its participants to practice with their high school teams. Sometimes, Johnson and Walker will see their Wildcat teammates in class and at meets.
That doesn’t mean they’re not invested.
“Although Shay and Georgia don’t practice with our team often, they attend every meet, and every team activity,” Stambaugh said, “and they show the non-year-round swimmers what dedication can get you.”
Added Johnson: “It’s such a fun team. High school [swimming] is different. It’s more laid back. I get super psyched to cheer for my teammates.”
From now until February, Johnson and Walker—along with many of the area’s top swimmers from other schools—will continue to train with their club teams and compete for their schools. It can be a grind that’s tough on young athletes and their parents.
But Stambaugh said she knows what to expect from her two junior standouts.
“It amazes me how good-natured they both are,” she said. “There’s not a conceited bone in either’s body, although they have a right to. It’s an amazing quality.”