Leah Goldman’s importance to the Burlingame girls’ swim team is elementary.
“By far, she’s one of the most talented female swimmers that we have,” Burlingame head coach Chris Culp said.
With a record-breaking performance in Saturday’s Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division Swimming Championships, Goldman led the Panthers to their second title in three years. The Burlingame girls edged Menlo-Atherton 526.5-522, with Goldman’s final leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay clinching the win.
Earlier in the day, Goldman broke two PAL records. Her relay team — along with Niki Reynolds, Marie Maxwell and Teresa Tang — won the 200 free relay with a time of 1:38.64, breaking the former PAL record of 1:38.91 set by Burlingame in 2005. In individual competition, Goldman won 200 individual medley in 2:01.86, breaking the previous record of 2:02.56 set by Alicia Grima in 2011.
Because of Goldman’s record-breaking performance in the senior’s penultimate high school meet, she has been named the San Mateo Daily Journal Athlete of the Week.
Even though the final relay of the day wasn’t a record breaker — the Lady Panthers topped M-A by more than two seconds with a time of 3:34.30 — it was the race of which she was most mindful. Burlingame went into the 400 free relay trailing M-A by two-and-a-half points. So, when she hit the water for the final leg with a lead over M-A’s Kindle Van Linge, she wasn’t worried about the record. She was only concerned with securing the Bay Division crown.
The girls’ win didn’t set off a celebration though. The Lady Panthers waited until the Burlingame boys’ team brought home PAL Bay Division title as well, even though the boys had already clinched it before they closed out the meet with a time of 3:17.24 in the 400 free relay.
As soon as it was over though, the entire Burlingame varsity squad went crazy.
“We all jumped in the pool with Coach Chris, so that was fun,” Goldman said. “We bear-hugged him into the pool and he was all wet in all his clothes.”
Goldman is a lifer in the pool. She started swimming before she could walk. When she was 8 years old, she joined her first club team at Peninsula Covenant Aquatics in Redwood City. As a high school freshman, she moved to Peak Swimming in Saratoga. But midway through her senior season in mid-April, she relocated to Palo-Alto-Stanford Aquatics where she is teammates with M-A rivals Van Linge and Maddie Pont.
“So many people wanted to know why I switched in the middle of my senior year … but I was just looking for a different sort of environment,” Goldman said. “More people like my peer age, so like seniors in high school. [Also] I was looking to the future in places where I’d like to train when I came back from school for the summer.”
It’s going to be quite a voyage home returning from school as Goldman will be attending Duke University on a full athletic scholarship in the fall. Entertaining offers from University of Texas, Michigan and USC, she opted to move to Durham, North Carolina by committing to Duke last October.
Rigorous schedules are nothing new to Goldman though. Good thing for her the hectic schedule includes plenty of time in the water.
“This week we have CCS (playoffs), which is the last swimming championship for high school,” Goldman said. “Then I have graduation a week after that. Then I swim and train throughout the summer and go to Junior Nationals, possibly Nationals, at the end of July. … Then I fly out to Duke in the middle of August.”
Changing from Burlingame red to Duke blue should prove a seamless transition for Goldman though.
“Blue is one of my favorite colors,” she said. “So, I already have that color in my wardrobe.”