Toward the end of her freshman year at Potomac Falls, Becky Horning felt that she had to make a decision.
In her first year of high school, Horning competed on the Panthers' swimming team in the winter and played junior varsity soccer in the spring. She had juggled both sports for years, but to excel at one of them, she thought that she might have to give up the other.
Then, the decision was made for her. Late in the spring soccer season that year, Horning hyperextended her left knee. The injury forced her onto crutches, into physical therapy and out of the water.
"It took me out of swimming for a while," said Horning, who also injured her right shoulder during soccer season. "I knew if I kept playing soccer, it would be bigger and rougher and tougher, and there would be more of a chance that I'd get injured."
So Horning decided to leave her cleats behind and center her attention on the pool. She hasn't regretted the decision, and neither has Potomac Falls.
Last winter, Horning helped the Panthers' girls team win the Dulles District title, the third in a row for the girls.
Horning also distinguished herself individually. At the Virginia AA championships, she successfully defended her 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly titles, setting new state standards in each event.
She won the freestyle in 1 minute 54.30 seconds and edged Megan Newell of Stone Bridge, a close friend and rival, to win the 100 fly in 57.28. After the season, she was named All-Extra Girls' Swimmer of the Year and honorable mention All-Met.
Shalynn Bain, who became head coach at Potomac Falls this year, was impressed with Horning's times even before she met the standout junior. Horning has not disappointed.
"She's got the natural talent and her stroke is very beautiful," Bain said. "She's always trying to get better, and she's not happy with a first. She's always trying to drop her time."
Bain has been equally impressed with Horning's work outside the pool. Because Horning swims each morning with Ashburn Village Swim Team, her United States Swimming squad, Bain knows that she does not need a full afternoon workout with the Panthers.
"She assists me in practice and helps to improve the strokes of the younger swimmers," Bain said. "I made her one of our captains because she does so much at practice. She has a good knowledge of technique."
That runs in the family. Horning's father, Mark, swam for Johns Hopkins; brother Steve completed his fourth season at Virginia Tech last year; and sister Sarah coaches the Stone Bridge team.
Horning credits her family, especially her brother, with having a major influence on her swimming career.
"She kind of had to overcome swimming in her brother Steve's shadow," said Tom Pollock, who coached Becky for four years with the Countryside Waves summer swim team. "It only took about a year or two until she really came into her own."
Pollock recalled using Horning to swim the anchor leg of Countryside's mixed age-group relay teams.
"We could always use her to swim up an age group against girls two or three years older," Pollock said. "There were several occasions where the meet was on the line, and the mixed age-group relay is the last event of the meet, and to have Becky in the 15-18 spot at age 13 to win the whole meet is really something."
Horning still swims for the Waves and in the summer helps to instruct younger swimmers, as she does at Potomac Falls.
"She has kind of become the icon around here that they're all trying to catch and keep up with," Pollock said.
Just like her competitors in high school.