Michigan has had no shortage of achievers in the swimming pool over a half-century of girls swimming & diving sponsorship by the MHSAA. But nearly two decades after her last high school race, Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Kara Lynn Joyce's achievements remain among the highest of standards.
Joyce starred on the 2001 and 2002 teams that were the second and third, respectively, of Pioneer’s nine straight champions in Lower Peninsula Class A and then Division 1 (with that reclassification in 2002). She was part of four race champions both years – in the 100-yard freestyle and as part of the 400 freestyle relay at both Finals, while as a junior in the 50 and as part of the 200 medley relay and as a senior in 200 freestyle and 200 free relay.
Her name remains an incredible 16 times in the MHSAA girls swimming & diving record book, including seven times on the all-Finals lists (for performances from all Classes and Divisions combined). Her 50 (22.04 seconds – leading off a relay) and 100 (48.59) freestyles in 2002 remain all-Finals record, as does the 200 freestyle relay (1:32.77) she swam with Margaret Kelly, Leigh Cole and Jennifer Merte that season. Her winning 1:46.34 in the 200 as a senior is second all-time at the Finals only to another future Olympian, Canton’s Allison Schmitt, who finished nine hundredths of a second faster five years later.
Joyce’s 50 remains fifth all-time in the national record book, and her 100 ranks 13th on that list. Pioneer’s 2002 200 freestyle relay ranks sixth nationally.
Joyce went on to swim at University of Georgia and then during the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She won four silver medals, two each as part of 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays.
That 2002 Pioneer team is still considered arguably the most dominant in MHSAA history. The Pioneers claimed that first LP Division 1 title with 476 points, by 275 over the rest of the field. No LP Division 1 team has broken 400 points at a Final since.
Joyce has become a strong voice in leadership training for teenage girls in athletics. In 2017, she founded Lead Sports Co., which serves as a “home base for teenage girl athletes, parents and coaches with comprehensive online courses in Leadership, Confidence, Sports Psychology, and more.”
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
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Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
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Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read
PHOTOS Ann Arbor Pioneer celebrates the Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship; Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce stands middle, just below the trophy. (MHSAA File Photos.)
WEST BLOOMFIELD — When she started high school swimming last fall, West Bloomfield sophomore Elizabeth Eichbrecht didn’t know what expectations to have, given she knew full well the high level of competition there was throughout the state.
Well, after two seasons, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht has blown any expectations she had out of the water, pun intended.
At the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals on Nov. 17-18 at Eastern Michigan University, Eichbrecht won her third and fourth individual championships.
She won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.08, more than three seconds ahead of the next finisher. The winning time qualified for All-America recognition and bested her first-place time from the 2022 Finals by 0.34 seconds.
Later on, Eichbrecht won the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:47.66, more than 11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her All-American time in that event was more than five seconds better than her winning time in 2022.
Two years, four Finals titles. Not too shabby.
“Yes it’s surprising, because there are so many fast girls and we are all very competitive,” Eichbrecht said.
Eichbrecht already holds six school records – in all four freestyle events, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
She also owns Oakland Activities Association records in the 200 and 500 freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
“I like the distance events more, mainly because I don’t have to all-out sprint,” Eichbrecht said.
West Bloomfield head coach Ronson Webster said the big reason why Eichbrecht was even better this year as a sophomore after making such an impact as a freshman wasn’t necessarily because she was bigger and stronger, although those were contributing factors.
Mainly, her success this year was the validation that she belonged after such a great freshman season.
“She gained more confidence this year going into her races,” he said. “She focused on racing her race and not who was next to her. Meeting the time we worked for was the goal. Winning is a bonus.”
While Eichbrecht excels at so many events, her specialty has been the 200 and 500 freestyles, which is stating the obvious given the Finals titles she has won in those events.
“Her training is very specific as it is for every swimmer on our team,” Webster said. “Everyone is trained differently. Her technique is very important and specific to her event and body size. Since she is shorter, she can’t swim the same as a tall person. Having the right technique designed for the swimmer and the correct race plan goes a long way.”
Eichbrecht next will focus on her club season for Supernova Swim Team based out of Farmington Hills, and she already is looking forward to competing at the Winter Junior Nationals in Columbus from Dec. 6-9.
By the time her career is over, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht might be the best all-time from a West Bloomfield school that’s not known as much for swimming as other Oakland County powers such as Farmington Hills Mercy or the Birmingham schools. But Eichbrecht is relishing putting her school on the swimming map with all her success so far.
“I love swimming at WB,” she said. “My teammates are amazing, and they work super hard. I’m super proud of all the work they put in this season, and I can’t wait for next season.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) West Bloomfield’s Elizabeth Eichbrecht swims the winning 200-yard freestyle Nov. 18 at Eastern Michigan University. (Middle) Eichbrecht talks with runner-up Yan Yee Adler from Ann Arbor Pioneer after also winning the 500 freestyle. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)