The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Gigi Zuniga Makes a Splash In Her First Swim Season

Photo by Lee Ward, associate head coach of the DVC swim team. Although Gigi Zuniga is in her first competitive swim season, she has already emerged as a top freestyler in the state.

“Gigi, Gigi, Gigi, Gigi!” chanted the crowd of swimmers as they surrounded the starting block where Diablo Valley College’s breakout swimmer, Gigi Zuniga, prepared to dive in.

Zuniga was about to swim her leg of the women’s 4×200-yard freestyle relay at the Big 8 Championship Meet at Santa Rosa Junior College, on April 19th, 2024.

The Vikings were trailing the first-place Santa Rosa relay by three seconds as both teams’ second leg swimmers came racing toward the wall.

“I was just thinking about trying my very best and having no regrets,” said Zuniga in a recent interview with The Inquirer, recalling the moments before her dive.

Somewhat incredibly, Zuniga was in her first ever competitive swim season and had already emerged as a top freestyler in the state in multiple events. Now, she found herself in a high pressure relay situation, and her team looked to her for a comeback.

“Gigi, Gigi…. GO!” the crowd yelled. Zuniga dove in and immediately made up ground on the Santa Rosa swimmer to her left. After she completed her first two laps of the race, a murmur of excitement spread through the crowd as her time appeared on the scoreboard.

Zuniga had completed her first two laps in 26.44 seconds — by far the fastest first two laps of any of the women who swam the 200 freestyle during the meet.

As she finished her next six laps, Zuniga gained on the Santa Rosa swimmer who was herself putting together the third fastest time of the meet. Zuniga raced forward the last 25 yards, swinging the momentum in DVC’s favor as she brought her team within a second of Santa Rosa going into the last leg.

Her time of 1:59.04 was the second-fastest relay split of the meet, and the Vikings ended up completing their comeback to win the relay — one of DVC’s two big relay victories at the Big 8 Conference Championship.

 Zuniga’s performance left her coaches and teammates in awe.

“When you watch her race, you can tell that there is a fire and a desire to win inside of her,” said Vikings head coach Trisha Quan.

Kristen Fitch, a DVC sophomore who led the relay, called Gigi “our fastest freestyler.”

“I was honestly 100 percent confident in her,” Fitch said.

Outside of her relay heroics, Zuniga had a great conference championship meet overall, finishing 3rd in the mile, and only an hour later finishing 2nd in the 100-yard freestyle.

She also placed fourth in the 500-yard freestyle earlier in the meet.

“Gigi was probably the biggest surprise from this year, having never swam competitively,” said Quan.

“She has the best attitude, in which she just puts her head down and works.”

Although it’s her first competitive swim season, it’s not the first time Zuniga has competed as an aquatic athlete. When she moved from Sacramento to Walnut Creek at the age of six, she started competing in synchronized swimming.

She trained for years after that, and found success as a result.

“In my synchro career, I was always put on the A teams,” Zuniga said. “I would always train really hard with my team and I would always put in the work.”

In 2022, she tried out for the USA Junior National Team, which she said included a rigorous set of in-water trials as well as out-of-water interviews. She earned a spot on the team, and competed in the World Junior Artistic Swimming Championships in Quebec in 2022, representing the USA.

“It takes a lot of dedication to be able to do that,” she said. “It takes so much time to train really hard to be one of the best in synchronized swimming.”

Practice for the Junior National Team was demanding, with each practice session spanning seven hours a day, six days a week. Outside of practicing their routines, Zuniga said she and her synchronized swimming teammates had to build up their breath control and endurance to allow them to be able to compete at the highest level.

Now, the skills and work ethic she developed during that period have translated into her competitive swimming success, helping her become one of the best freestylers in California at the junior college level.

“I think she has done incredibly well,” said associate head coach Lee Ward. “She has a fire in her.”

According to teammates and coaches, Zuniga’s biggest strength in the pool this year has been her versatility.

“Being able to change from a distance event to a sprint event the way she does is impressive,” added Ward. “You don’t see many people who can sprint and go the distance.”

Quan agreed, praising Zuniga’s range of abilities.

“She’s super versatile,” said Quan. “It was really easy having her on the team and putting her where she needs to be. She is really fast at the 50 [yard] and she is really fast at the mile.”

Zuniga will be part of all three freestyle relays at the upcoming state championship meet, which is held from May 2 until May 4 at Orange Coast College, where she’ll compete in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the 400-yard freestyle relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay. She has also qualified for the 100-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, and 1650-yard freestyle.

Zuniga goes into the meet ranking 10th in the state in the 100-yard freestyle, 11th in the 500-yard freestyle, and 11th in the 1650-yard freestyle.

But so far, the pressure of being among the best doesn’t seem to have gotten to her.

“I’m a little nervous,” Zuniga said ahead of the state meet, “but I’m pretty locked in and ready to go and compete.”

“I think it will be really fun.”

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Nate Wendling, Staff Writer

Comments (0)

By commenting, you give The Inquirer permission to quote, reprint or edit your words. Comments should be brief, have a positive or constructive tone, and stay on topic. If the commenter wants to bring something to The Inquirer’s attention, it should be relevant to the DVC community. Posts can politely disagree with The Inquirer or other commenters. Comments should not use abusive, threatening, offensive or vulgar language. They should not be personal attacks or celebrations of other people’s tragedies. They should not overtly or covertly contain commercial advertising. And they should not disrupt the forum. Editors may warn commenters or delete comments that violate this policy. Repeated violations may lead to a commenter being blocked. Public comments should not be anonymous or come from obviously fictitious accounts. To privately or anonymously bring something to the editors’ attention, contact them.
All The Inquirer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.