ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, June 11. RECENT Naval Academy graduate Kelly Zahalka was one of 15 student-athletes from across to country to be selected as a First-Team Academic All-American for At-Large Sports by ESPN the Magazine and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The announcement of the three Academic All-America teams was made Thursday by the organization.
This year's award for Zahalka allows the record-setting women's swimmer from Richmond, Va., to make Naval Academy history. Already one of a select group of 12 student-athletes from Navy to have earned multiple Academic All-America certificates in a career during the nearly 60-year history of the awards program, Zahalka becomes the first Mid to have garnered the laurel on three different occasions.
She previously was selected as a Third-Team Academic All-American in 2007 and received first-team accolades last year.
Additionally, Zahalka is the first student-athlete from a Patriot League school to earn a trio of Academic All-America nods.
The list of NCAA sports for women that fall under the at-large umbrella for CoSIDA are bowling, crew, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, skiing, swimming, tennis and water polo. Zahalka and all Academic All-America nominees were placed onto the national ballot after garnering first-team honors in their respective districts. To have been eligible for all-district consideration, student-athletes must have attained a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.30, have been a starter or key reserve in their respective sport and have been at least a sophomore in the classroom.
An honors history major who also attained a minor in Chinese, Zahalka had posted a 4.00 GPA prior to the announcement of final grades at Navy. She graduated from Navy ranked third in the Class of 2009 on the Academy's Overall Order of Merit, which takes into account the school's Academic and Military Order of Merits.
The first three-time Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the sport of women's swimming and diving, and the first Mid in any sport to have earned the accolade from the league three times, Zahalka was selected as the 2007-08 overall Patriot League Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She also was named by USA Today to its 2009 First-Team All-USA College Academic Team, a non-athletic award which the publication determines based upon the "intellectual endeavors, community service and campus leadership" of the nominees.
In the pool, Zahalka posted 70 victories and 28 second-place finishes in 111 individual event races during her dual-meet career. She also totaled six individual event and four relay event titles in her career at the Patriot League Championship. Her overall tally of 10 titles is tied for seventh place in Navy history. She garnered Patriot League Swimmer-of-the-Year honors in 2007, was the runner-up for the laurel in 2008 and received a trio of first-team all-league accolades over the course of her career. Additionally, she leaves Navy holding the school record in both the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley events after previously holding the league records in both events.
A recipient of both the Harry S. Truman and Gen. George C. Marshall Scholarships, Zahalka will study for the next two years in the United Kingdom. Studying overseas is not new to Zahalka. She spent the 2008 fall semester as an exchange student at Capital Normal University in Beijing, China.
Zahalka was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps during the Naval Academy's graduation ceremony in late May.
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