Lisa Boyce started swimming at age 6 and it didn’t take long for her to establish a long-term plan in the sport.
“When I was 8 years old, I knew I wanted to swim in college,” said Boyce, a native of Champaign, Ill.
As Boyce competed for the Champaign County heat, she proved that such an ambition wasn’t a pipe dream, establishing herself as one of the top young sprinters in the country.
She reached the 100 freestyle championship final at the 2010 Speedo Junior National Championships and qualified for the Long Course Senior Nationals in 100 backstroke. In addition, Boyce was named as one of The News-Gazette’s Top 10 Swimmers of the Decade and the Swimmer of the Year while competing for University High.
Highly sought after by a number of college swimming programs, Boyce decided to come east to Princeton in 2010.
“My top 3 were Stanford, Northwestern, and Princeton,” said Boyce. “When I came on my recruiting visit to Princeton, I felt comfortable. These were people I wanted to be like; I could see myself fitting in.”
Boyce fit in nicely with the Tigers, setting a program record in 100 back with a time of 54.10 in the Big Al Open in her freshman year. She went on to win the 100 back at the Ivy league championship meet and took second in the 100 free and third in the 50 free.
In her sophomore season this past winter, Boyce won the Ivy titles in the 100 back, 50 free, and 100 free. She went on to compete in all three events at the NCAA Championships, placing 38th in the 100 back, 49th in the 50 free, and 31st in the 100 free.
This week, Boyce is in Omaha, Neb. and is racing against the best swimmers in the country at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Boyce, who is competing in the 100 back and 100 free, is being joined at the meet by several current and former Tiger teammates including rising sophomore Courtney Ciardiello (100 butterfly and 200 back), recently graduated Meredith Monroe (200 back), and 2011 alum Megan Waters (50 free).
The Princeton men’s swimming program is sending recently graduated Colin Cordes, (100 free, 200 free, and 200 back), rising senior Will Lawley (200 and 400 free), rising juniors Paul Nolle (1500 free), Daniel Hasler (200 breast, 200, and 400 IM) and Eric Materniak (200 breaststroke) together with a quartet of rising sophomores in Oliver Bennett (200 fly), Conner Maher (200 individual medley), Caleb Tuten (400 IM), and Harrison Wagner (50 free).
In getting ready for the trials, Boyce stayed east to put in extra training.
“We are doing two-a-days at Princeton and I have been adding a few more weight sessions,” said Boyce. “A group of us are training together; it is definitely good. Right now, we are dropping down and tapering.”
For Boyce, getting used to the increased training load was a major adjustment she faced in making the adjustment to college swimming.
“I never did doubles during the school year,” said Boyce. “It was one practice a day during school year and two-a-days in the summer. Doing that and balancing Princeton schoolwork was tough.”
Princeton assistant coach Suzanne Yee believes that Boyce quickly found a good balance as a freshman.
“The thing that struck me was how open she was to learning and doing different things than she was doing before,” said Yee, who works with program’s sprinters.
“Lisa is very passionate about swimming. When she gets in the pool, that is all she is focusing on. In the freshman year, you have a learning curve and hers was easier. Lisa picked up things quickly. In high school, things are more general; you are training for different events. In college, you can specialize and focus on the events that you are best at.”
While Boyce didn’t have her best results at the 2011 Ivy championship meet, Yee saw it as a necessary step in her development as a swimmer.
“As a freshman, there is a lot of pressure at a conference meet,” added Yee. “With Princeton trying to continue its success and the meet being at home, I think she tried too hard to go fast. When you focus on going a certain time, it becomes hard to go that time.”
Boyce, for her part, gained some extra mental toughness from the high stakes competition.
“I felt like I could have swum faster,” said Boyce. “I was very nervous; it was emotionally overwhelming, particularly for a freshman.”
As a sophomore, Boyce felt more at ease. “I was more comfortable with my position on the team and how I fit in,” said Boyce.
“It was really great to qualify for the 100 free at the trials. I made it on the first swim before the qualifying times even came out. The Ivy meet was a lot better.”
Doing so well this winter helped Boyce take another step up the swimming ladder as she qualified for the NCAA championships. “I had wanted to do NCAAs ever since I had heard about them,” said Boyce. “The more I compete at that level, the more comfortable I get.”
In Yee’s view, Boyce has taken things to a higher level in her sophomore campaign.
“One of the differences with Megan Waters graduating is that Lisa stepped up and filled a role on the team as a leader and as a swimmer people can count on,” said Yee.
“She was very consistent at maintaining a higher level. This year, she has been able to focus on the bigger picture and one or two things. She was able to have more fun and swim faster.”
Boyce has the potential to do some special things over the rest of her Princeton career, according to Yee.
“It just depends on what she wants to do; it is an individual sport within a team format,” said Yee, noting that Boyce is naturally gifted in her underwater kicking and is equally adept at the free and the back.
“Going forward, if she keeps working like she is, I could see her scoring at the NCAA meet. That is a very reasonable goal. I don’t know how high she could go; I’d like to see her in top 8.”
Boyce, for her part, is primed to put in some good work this week in Omaha.
“I would like to get my best times but the main point of this is to get experience,” asserted Boyce, who will be competing later this summer at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships looking for a spot in the 2013 World University Games.
“It is one of the fastest meets in the world and it will be great to be around it. One of the key things is to improve mentally so I don’t get overwhelmed when competing at higher levels.”