It was some nine years ago that we first met Lia Neal, then an 8-year-old female swimmer at the Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics Swim Club down in the 90s on the East Side, spitting distance from Gracie Mansion. Her dad, nationally known jazz musician Rome Neal, had contacted me about his daughter, then a member of the club.

So along with Karl Crutchfield, AmNews photographer, I watched her working out. Over the years, as Lia began setting and breaking age-group records locally, statewide and around the country, Rome kept us informed as she swam her way to record-breaking performances. The photo married to this piece is of Lia as an 8-year-old wunderkind who has since joined the fraternity of the world’s top swimmers.

Lia finished fourth in the Olympic trials and is on her way to London as a member of the USA 4×100-meter relay team.