Saturday, August 14, 2004
Focus. Determination. Poise. Hard work. Persistence. These qualities (and many other synonymous ones) have gotten Bremerton native Tara Kirk where she is today, and they are the same ones responsible for her continuing journey.
Everyone walking the halls of Bremerton High School from the years of 1997 to 2000 pretty much knew Tara was an extraordinary swimmer, and an equally amazing student to boot. She was also a very approachable, down-to-earth person, which made her that much easier to root for.
It's been said that Tara has a sort of competitive switch that she is able to flip when in the pool. We didn't doubt this as Tara was swimming in progressively higher-profile events with progressively higher results.
Okay, I'll tell this story one more time. In early 2000, I was sitting with the rest of the baseball team in Coach (Mike) McKnight's room for our annual mental preparedness practice (planned for a rainy day). We went through drills involving visual, mental, and even lingustic and aural awareness. At the end of one drill, Coach McKnight asked if any one of us thought we had the mental toughness to learn to walk again if we'd been stricken with paralysis. As is usual for me, I probably didn't say anything one way or the other. A couple of the ballplayers probably said yes for fun. Coach McKnight then said he believed only two people in the school could regain locomotion after paralysis. He said the two people were female. He said they were sisters. At that point, he didn't have to tell us whom he was talking about.
Any doubts that Tara was going to be racking up some amazing achievements were squashed during School Success Knight (academic appreciation, of sorts), when parents and students learned of her upcoming trip to Athens for the Short Course worlds that year. All she ended up doing there was breaking the American record in the 50m breaststroke. Twice.
Then we learned Tara was Stanford-bound, off to greener pastures and a school with an amazing swimming program, light years beyond the high school from which she came, one that fielded no swim team at the time. She graduated from Bremerton High School a 4.0 student, this even after all those before-school training sessions. For the record, our campus had no pool, and school started at 7:30am.
From here is where I let the links below tell most of the rest of the story. I'll give you some hints, though. She reeled off a career-long 35-race win streak in the 100 breaststroke. She is a 16-time All-American and an 11-time NCAA champion. She has the current world record time in the 100m breaststroke. She beat out Catherine Reddick, April Ross, Diana Taurasi, and Jessica van der Linden (Mrs. Michael Boulware, to Seahawk fans) for the Honda-Broderick Cup in 2004, an award given to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. Then there was that whole thing where she made the Olympic team.
Tara Kirk. Olympic swimmer. Amazing student. Member of the Sports and Bremertonians Hall of Fame.
LINKS (surely to be updated as time allows...) --
Tara Kirk Named Collegiate Woman Athlete Of The Year
CBS SportsLine bio
Kirk edged out at finish, places sixth -- 16 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
Tara makes a splash in prelims -- 16 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
ON TO THE FINALS: Tara advances with third best time in 100 breaststroke -- 15 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
A long wait, and now, they swim -- 15 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
Tara Kirk finishes second in prelims; moves on to semifinals
-- 15 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
Climbing Olympus together -- 13 Aug 2004, Bremerton Sun
Tara Kirk Blasts World Record in the 100m Breaststroke -- 19 Mar 2004, SwimInfo, Lane 9 News
Tara Kirk's U.S. record tops Pac-10 championship -- 3 Mar 2004, Palo Alto Weekly
U.S. Olympic Committee Honors Tara Kirk, Ian Crocker and U.S. National Softball Team for March Accomplishments -- US Olympic Committee
Bremerton High School scans of local newspaper articles (image-heavy, not recommended for 56k)
Three's a charm for Tara Kirk -- 22 Mar 2003, Bremerton Sun