Kara Lynn Joyce swim

Girls Swim & Dive

Title IX at 50: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

November 9, 2021

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.

Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights

Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: 
Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
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.)