When Lunn Lestina was 7 years old, he couldn't swim the length of a 25-meter pool.
"The swim team representative from the Moseby Woods summer team lived next door and he needed an 8-under," said Lestina, a recent Georgetown Day High graduate who was named to The Washington Post's all-Met swim team this year. "He was recruiting me over the fence and I finally gave in. I wasn't really doing anything before that. I was an average kid."
Since then, Lestina, now 17, has been anything but average.
Three years ago, Lestina lapped all of the other swimmers in his first attempt to swim 1,000 yards -- that's 40 laps of a pool. The spring of that year, he qualified for his first trip to the junior national championships in the 1,000 and 1,650.
Lestina recently qualified in the 400-meter freestyle for the World Championship trials, scheduled for this week in Orlando, Fla. The top finalists will represent the United States at the World Championships in August in Madrid, and at the Goodwill Games in Moscow.
"I swim for fun, but it's mostly hard work. I'm not a natural," said Lestina.
It's difficult to tell that from watching him. He appears to move through the water effortlessly, his 6-foot-3 and 174-pound frame causing minimal disturbance in the water as his strokes move him from wall to wall.
In February, Lestina demonstrated the ease with which he wins, swimming away from the competition in the first annual Washington Metropolitan Area Independent High School Swimming and Diving Championships at Catholic University.
He competed in the longest events possible at the high school level -- the 200 intermediate medley and the 500 freestyle -- which are mere sprints for him. Swimming a sub-par 1:57.93 in the IM, he still won by eight seconds. His margin of victory was even greater in the 500, his 4:34.84 bringing him in almost 30 seconds before the runner-up.
Lestina works out two hours before school and two hours afterward. Then there's weightlifting three times a week. He also traveled from his home in Fairfax to Bethesda every day to attend Georgetown Day School, "mainly because of the small class size and the student-teacher ratio," he said.
And Lestina still finds time to practice at the piano -- he began taking lessons seven years ago -- and last year began painting in watercolor.
"My mother is a watercolorist," he said. "I took drawing for a year in school and liked it and decided to expand my horizons. Also, it was something I could do and have a full-time tutor around. I felt all I was doing was swimming. I'm going to stick with the painting through college. My mother's a music teacher, too, and I took the piano because I was hearing it all day long, anyway. I play it now for my own enjoyment."
Understandably, there was a time Lestina felt like quitting swimming. But it wasn't directly a result of his incredible schedule. Rather, it was because he wasn't making the progress he felt he should.
"It was getting tired and, three years ago, I felt I had been swimming for so long, it was now or never," he said. It was that year that he made his first foray into national-level competition. "I got serious about my swimming then. I decided to stick with it."
When it comes to setting goals, Lestina says, "I'm going to swim as far as my ability will take me. If it's the Olympics or the World Games, I'll go there. If it's the NCAAs or the conference championships, I'll be happy with that. I want to swim until I see the limit of my ability, and I haven't approached that limit yet."