In just her second swim meet of the season as a sophomore at Cody High School, Tara Joyce broke the school 100-free record.
The race was a foreshadowing of what would be an amazing swim career for the Filly senior, who recently signed to swim for the University of Wyoming next year.
“I feel motivated because I want to prove to Wyoming that they’ve made the right decision and I’m going to do everything I can to make what they’ve done worth it,” she said. “I just want to go in there and be like ‘You wanted Tara Joyce and you were right about that.’”
In her time at CHS, Joyce has broken or re-broken team records 36 times and state records 21 times. She set new marks in the 50, 100, 200, 400 and 500 free, 100 fly, 100 back and 200 IM. She was also part of four team record-setting relays (200 medley once, 200 free relay twice, 400 free relay once).
“There’s always another record out there,” she said. “So when I was breaking the 3A records, I started setting my goals toward the 4A records and then when I had some of the 4A records, I was setting goals toward All-American cuts.”
Joyce was a seven-time state champion winning the 200 three years in a row, the 500 twice and the 100 once. She also was part of the championship 400 meter relay as a sophomore. She also earned 3A Athlete of the Meet and 3A Athlete of the Year as both a junior and senior.
“I feel beyond honored to have had the opportunity to coach Tara and to be a small part of all of the success she has enjoyed in the Wyoming swimming world and beyond,” CHS swim coach Emily Swett said. “I have come to realize that the hardest part of coaching a high school team is having kids graduate and move on, and while we hope to set them up for great success in their future endeavors, it is always hard to see them move on.”
Joyce began swimming at age 6 in Los Angeles, while also giving ballet a try.
“And then the coaches talked to my parents and they were like, ‘She should probably be swimming a little bit more,’ so I dropped ballet and haven’t looked back,” she said.
Before moving to Wyoming at age 16, Joyce qualified for sectionals on her California team.
“My coach pulled me to the side and explained how I just qualified for a national level meet,” she said. “That was probably the first time where it really like sunk in that this is a sport that I’m performing well in.”
Joyce said there were some nerves before her first meet with the Fillies, as she didn’t know how the altitude would affect her.
“I didn’t really have expectations,” she said. “I was just along for the ride.”
During many of her record-breaking swims, Joyce was by herself, far ahead of her fellow competitors. To get in the right mindset before those races, she pictures a race from her time swimming in California.
“I remember having this one race in Phoenix, and before getting on the block I was really excited for the race and I just wanted to beat this older girl next to me,” she said. “Every time I swim races like the 200 free I just always go back to how I felt before that race in Phoenix and it makes me go fast.”
She’s enjoyed her career as a Filly swimmer and said it was hard to say goodbye because her fellow swimmers feel like sisters.
“Having the college season to look forward to has definitely made it a little bit easier,” she added. “I haven’t really dealt with the feeling of ‘I’m never going to see the pool and those girls again in that setting.’”
Joyce visited UW during the summer and fell in love with the coaching staff and all the girls on the team.
“I’d visited some other schools but something just felt different about Wyoming, it felt like it clicked better,” she said. “So I acted on it and decided to commit there.”
The Cowgirls finished fourth at last year’s Mountain West Conference championships. UW coach David Denniston said Joyce will add speed to the program.
“Our team can’t wait to have Tara join our program,” he said. “She’s a diverse swimmer who can compete in nearly any event, but we are excited to see what she can do in the freestyle events and for our relays. I anticipate that Tara will be competing on the national stage at NCAAs within her first two years in Laramie.”
Joyce said she puts in about 16 hours of training per week among the pool, weights and other dryland workouts.
“I really love competing,” she said. “I know some girls don’t really like that aspect, but I think it’s fun. I don’t take it personal if I get beat, but it’s always nice to see how you compare to others.”
Joyce is looking forward to seeing how she stacks up at the college level and said she’s been studying the times of the Cowgirls so far this season.
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone who has had a chance to swim with her, compete against her, coach her or get to know her when I say that Tara is an incredibly special athlete and human being,” Swett said.
Joyce plans to study mechanical engineering.