Perpetual motion: Leesville multi-sport athlete Mills-Zacapa always on the move

Published 3:44 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

By Rodrick Anderson

Multi-sport athlete Lina Mills-Zacapa is always on the move and enjoys every minute.

Her love of sports started at a young age when she ran her first mile as a 5-year-old living in Hawaii. She picked up cross country in junior high and just kept going. She competes in four sports (track, cross country, swimming and tennis) for Leesville High School.

“My parents are both athletic,” Mills-Zacapa said. “They love running and staying in shape and all that stuff. That is what got me motivated. Then I discovered cross country in seventh grade. I ran my first race, and I won. I knew this was something I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

Her ability to excel in multiple disciplines led her to start triathlon training and was key in her college choice. She signed with Queens University (N.C.) of Charlotte for track, cross country and triathlon on Thursday. Queens competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference and began its four-year transition from Division II in July of 2022.

“I am very excited,” Mills-Zacapa said. “This is what I have been waiting for a very long time.

“Queens is No. 2 in triathlon in the nation right now. I like the area. It has my major (interior design, architecture), and it is in North Carolina where my dad is from. And Charlotte is a beautiful city.”

“With me, each of my sports, like swimming and running, help each other, so I just love doing multiple sports. It keeps me in shape, and I enjoy everything that I do. I have always done multiple sports, and I want to continue to do that.”

She has placed in the top eight at the last three Louisiana High School state cross country meets, including runner-up in 2022. At the outdoor state track and field championships last May, Mills-Zacapa placed third in the Class 4A 1,600- (5:16.33) and 3,200-meter runs (11:44). She was the district and regional champ in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 4×400 relay.

She won the Division II, Region 2 tennis singles championship in April, then placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle and seventh in the 50 at the state swim meet in November.

Mixed in with all the sports are honors classes and a 4.1 grade point average, plus she is the battalion commander of the LHS Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

“I balance it really well,” Mills-Zacapa said. “I do tennis three days a week, then every day is running and two days a week swimming.

“I just try my best. I don’t know how I do it. OK, I enjoy what I do. That is how I am able to do it all. Right after school, I run for one hour, then I can play tennis for two then come home and do homework. Then the next day will be swimming and running.”

Somehow she doesn’t get tired.

“I do have to take a rest day, but I am not really tired because I don’t try to overwork my body so my body doesn’t scream back at me,” Mills-Zacapa said.

She plans to compete in her first triathlon this summer once she gets in enough training.

“It is something that I have always wanted to do,” Mills-Zacapa said. “I have seen the Olympic triathlons, and I was like ‘How am I supposed to get it started here?’

“It is really hard to get something started. But I am good at swimming distance, and I am good at running cross country. I am starting to learn to bike, and now I can make a dream come true, competing in triathlons.”

Triathlon is an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women. It has exceeded the 40-school threshold of schools sponsoring the sport but is waiting to become an NCAA championship sport. Using the sprint format (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) USA Triathlon hosts national championship races for three NCAA divisions, and Queens is the two-time Division I runner-up.

“Because I did swimming and distance running, and my times are really good, they said ‘She is already good at swimming and running, we just need to put her on a bike,’ which is the easiest one to learn,” Mills-Zacapa said. “I just need to build up endurance for that.

“(Queens is) really excited about putting me on the team, and I can get better competing against people that have been doing it for a longer time.”