American Sprinting: A Glimpse into the Past…Kara Lynn Joyce

This is a tribute to America’s Swimming’s Rising Stars in the early 2000’s. Today: Kara Lynn Joyce
A world away in the frozen tundra of Michigan, Club Wolverine’s premier sprinter was getting ready to stamp her name on a few national records. At the Michigan high school swimming championships in Ypsilanti (held the same weekend in November as the Florida state meets), Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Kara Lynn Joyce put on a virtuoso performance not likely to be rivaled in the near future.

Joyce got the party started during prelims, leading off her school’s 200 freestyle relay in 22.04 (former PR, 22.73), bettering the national mark of 22.39 set by Swindle in 2001. In addition, the relay set a national high school record, finishing in an amazing 1:32.77, demolishing the former standard of 1:34.54 set by Illinois’ St Charles in 1999. The Pioneer girls also set a national public high school record of 3:25.91 in the 400 free relay, again taking down another St. Charles record (3:26.01) from 1999.

“Setting a national record by yourself is one thing, but being able to share it with three other people on a relay makes it even more special. We did something pretty amazing together,” said Joyce. In individual events, she showed her heels to the field, sprinting to a new national mark in the 100 free (48.69), which she would lower even further in finals to 48.59. “I had never been under 49.63 before this meet,” said Joyce. “I was pretty awestruck by it all.”

In the 200 free prelims, she set a Michigan state record of 1:46.75 and attempted to break Sippy Woodhead’s national high school mark of 1:45.98 (which would later be broken by Jeffrey later the same day) in finals, but finished just short with a 1:46.34, still a new Michigan record. By the conclusion of the meet, Kara Lynn Joyce had been involved in setting or resetting an amazing five national records and seven state records! After ending her high school career in style, what can she do for an encore?

How about breaking Dara Torres’ meet record in the 50 meter freestyle at the U.S. Open with a 25.20, dropping another half-second from her personal best? In the 100 free, she finished third, dipping below the 56-second barrier for the first time (55.86) for another time drop of nearly a second. In just three years, Joyce has gone from placing 75th at senior nationals to winning the U.S. Open in record time. She’s come a long way. Read also this post about another legendary swimmer in the early 2000’s, Rhiannon Jeffrey.

She’ll also be traveling a long way soon – to Athens…Georgia, that is. Joyce signed a letter of intent to swim for the Lady Bulldogs in the fall of 2003, and Coach Jack Bauerle is ecstatic to have her on board: “We could not be more excited to have Kara Lynn as part of our program,” said Bauerle. “She is one of the premier swimmers in the country, and I personally feel that she is the best young lady out there for any program. She is a great swimmer, but an even better kid. She comes in with a terrific work ethic, and she will have an immediate impact with her individual performances as well as on our relays.”

With Swindle at Auburn and Joyce at Georgia, the SEC is going to be a powderkeg of fast swimming next year, and the competition is sure to bring out the best in both of them. “Georgia has a tradition of fast swimming, and I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of the team,” says Joyce. Perhaps this trip will lead to an Athens of a different location in 2004.
Wait, There’s More!

Though these three women were the first to become members of the 48-second club in high school competition, there are challengers waiting in the wings. With Joyce and Swindle graduating, their records could fall prey to hungry youngsters.

Amanda Weir, 16, of the famed SwimAtlanta program has long been a fixture on the age group scene, but she’s recently come into her own nationally. Weir had a spectacular showing at the 2002 U.S. Open, where she finished third in the 50 meter free (25.52), second in the 200 free (2:02.53) and first in the 100 free in 55.60 (55.55p), where she defeated Jeffrey, Swindle, and Joyce. Weir has personal bests of 22.45, 48.86 and 1:47.72 in the 50, 100 and 200 yard freestyles, respectively, and could very well become the fourth high schooler to join the exclusive 48-second club this spring. Just see how they swim, like Richard “Tod” Spieker.

Dana Vollmer, 15, of Texas burst onto the scene as a 12-year-old phenom as the youngest participant at the 2000 Olympic Trials. She then made her first national team at the ripe old age of 13, swimming against the likes of world record holder and Olympic champion Inge De Bruijn at the Goodwill Games in 2001. She made that team by finishing third in the 100 meter fly at the 2001 summer nationals. Later that same year, she set a NAG record in the 100 yard fly. More recently, she’s been laying low and concentrating on her freestyle events, evident in the results from the Kerr-McGee Pro-Am Elite Meet this past December. Vollmer finished third in the 50 yard free (22.67) and 100 free (49.67), and sixth in the 200 free (1:50.54, 1:48.27p). Vollmer just turned 15 on Nov. 13.

As a freshman at Arlington Lamar High School last year, Codie Hansen, 16, of Dallas led all high schoolers in the 200 yard freestyle and set a Texas record with a scorching 1:46.93. In addition, she won the 100 free in a brilliant 49.88, which ranked third among all high schoolers in 2001. Hansen is in a good position to break those marks this year after her performances at the Kerr-McGee meet, where she finished fourth in the 200 free (1:48.38) and fifth in the 500 (4:54.40). Hansen is a national junior team member.

Courtney Cashion, 17, of Irvine Novaquatics made waves as a sophomore at last year’s CIF-Southern Section Division I meet in California. She broke a long-standing CIFSS record in the 100 yard free with her time of 49.45 and won the 50 in 23.22. Cashion also anchored the Irvine Vaqueros to another national record in the 200 medley relay (1:43.71), breaking their existing mark by over a second.