RIVERSIDE — As co-captain of the Leyden swim team, senior Maja Bulka is not only boosting her speed, but is also giving a lift to her teammates through school spirit and leadership, both in and out of the pool.
Bulka and co-captain senior Leslie Garcia were thrilled to represent their squad as this year’s homecoming queen at East Leyden and one of the homecoming princesses at West Leyden, respectively.
“I’m grateful for being homecoming queen because it was a great experience and pays homage to people who like and respect me to be a representative of school spirit,” Bulka said. “I’ve managed to meet a lot of people through high school because I’m involved in so much that I wouldn’t have met them otherwise.”
As co-captains, Bulka and Garcia give their team pep talks, organize team meals and act as role models.
“Maja’s a good leader,” Garcia said. “She always knows what to say. Even if she’s having a bad day, she’ll go out of her way to make the pool a happy place.”
Garcia and Bulka have been on swim team together for four years at Leyden and from fourth through eighth grade at Mannheim Middle School. Maja Bulka’s sisters Olga and Ada also are on the Leyden team.
Bulka swims the 200 free, 100 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay and 200 backstroke.
“I really like [swimming with my sisters] because we’ve become like best friends. We cheer for each other and give each other moral support for jumping into the pool at 5 in the morning,” Bulka said.
Leyden’s homecoming football game this year fell on Friday, the night before the swim invitational at Riverside-Brookfield. Though the girls were out late the previous night as members of the homecoming court, Bulka still managed to drop her time in the 100-yard freestyle.
Leyden swim coach Chris Cook said Bulka’s 58.9 seconds in the 100 free approached her personal best of 57.2. His goal for her is to drop under 56.2; Leyden’s record is 55.62, which was set by Caryn Schmidt in 2008. Cook said that as a sophomore, Bulka eclipsed Schmidt’s time as a sophomore.
“I think [Bulka] can definitely hit that 56.2 this year,” Cook said. “I wouldn’t put it past her to get the varsity record.”