July 6, 2022

Experiencing Meteoric Rise in Women’s Javelin, PU’s Joyce Takes 6th at NCAAs, Makes US Nationals

MIGHTY HEAVE: Princeton University women’s track star Kate Joyce throws the javelin at the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. Last month. Joyce capped her sophomore season at Princeton by taking sixth with a best heave of 179’5 at the NCAA meet to earn first-team All-American honors. She went on the compete in women’s javelin at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, also in Eugene, where she placed 16th with a throw of 145’4. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Justin Feil

Kate Joyce took a break from something she has been wanting to do in order to do something in track and field that she never anticipated.

Joyce is traveling the country photographing wildlife over the summer for a personal project as one of 13 Princeton University sophomore recipients of a Dale Summer Award. Joyce’s “Picture This….” project brought her to San Diego last week — after a stop to compete in women’s javelin at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

“It was a really cool experience to be throwing with such an elite level of competition and people who have been doing this a while,” said Joyce, who placed 16th with a throw of 145’4.

“Even just watching was great. It would have been cool to make finals, but just to watch them was a cool experience. And outside of javelin, being surrounded by such great athletes in that atmosphere was incredible.”

Joyce still is embracing her own elite level as a college javelin thrower. Her meteoric rise over the last three-plus years took her to sixth place and a medal in her first trip to the NCAA Championships in June and record-setting success.

“It’s all been very exciting,” said Joyce. She heads into her junior year at Princeton with only two real spring seasons of competition under her belt. The first of those seasons came as a junior at Weston (Conn.) High. Joyce was a standout basketball player at Weston who was being looked at by current Princeton University head coach Carla Berube for her former team at Tufts College. Her first two springs of high school, she played baseball, but she gave that up to try something new and joined track and field at the urging of the Weston coach, who wanted to see her throw javelin.

Joyce, who was still being recruited to play college basketball, was a marvel from the start. She won the state championship and helped the Weston girls win their first state title since 2008 while breaking the javelin meet record. Her senior spring of high school was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic before she could do anything more, and then her freshman year at Princeton was spent off campus for the fall and then shortened to three meets at the end of the spring.

“I only got to work with my coach in the spring,” said Joyce. “That was strange not starting right from the jump, and having not that many people on campus and being a lot more separated from my team, which was weird, and at meets I didn’t really know everyone on our team. I did a lot of team sports in high school so that was very wonky for me to not be as close with them and not being able to celebrate with them and stuff like that. It made it kind of strange. It was a strange transition. I had to get used to doing a more individual sport since I hadn’t done track that long.”

This year, with a full year on campus and training, Joyce has seen greater development. For someone with little meet experience and who is still adjusting to her event, the time was well spent.

“With the training I’ve done the whole year, nailing that down, I worked a lot on the technique,” said Joyce. “It really was being able to get consistent with that and really put it all together. Some aspects were good but I still had to work on other parts of the technique. It was getting it down so when it came to these meets I could just trust all the training I’d done and not have to think when I threw and just know that when I go up, I have all this training behind me and it’s going to work.”

It worked quite well down the stretch for Joyce, who repeatedly came up big when she needed it most. At the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, she had a best heave of 170’6 to place fits and set an Ivy, meet and school record. She was named Ivy League Most Outstanding Field Performer. She then qualified for the NCAA Championships when she placed eighth at the NCAA East Regional.

“Heps was nice,” said Joyce. “I was waiting for a big throw like that for a while. The meets before I had been throwing a little under my PR from last year, but I thought I had something in me that could go a bit further. That was a relief that meet to finally be able to do that. At Regionals, it was a bit nerve-wracking for me. It came down to that last throw as well. I think I was ranked 16th going into my last throw. So I knew if I wanted to make nationals, which I did want to do, I knew I had to put a lot into that throw to make it.”

At the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., Joyce was in danger of not making the finals when she uncorked another record throw. She finished as the top thrower out of the first flight with a personal and Ivy record 179’5, almost 10 feet further than her Heps winning throw.

“That was a very crazy surreal experience,” said Joyce. “My first two throws were all right. On my last one before finals, I was thinking, this is it, you have to throw one far now if you want to make finals. That was my goal to make finals. That one, all the training came together and I was able to hit every position in my run-up very well. I was not expecting it to go that far. The angle you’re at, you can’t really tell how far it is. I was shocked. I was pleasantly surprised.”

She had another terrific throw that didn’t go quite as far in her final attempt at NCAAs, but came away as a first-team All-America in her first trip to the top collegiate meet in the country.

“After each throw, I would go over to my coach to talk to her,” said Joyce. “Every time I went to go find her in the stands, I would pass by the trophies because they had them all there. After a while, I was thinking, it would be cool to get one of those so I might as well try. I had some motivation there.”

Her trophy now rests at home as she canvases the country looking to capture wildlife for her Dale Summer Award. Each recipient spends a minimum of eight weeks on their project. Joyce has been taking up to two weeks at each location to chronicle its wildlife. She has enjoyed the time to focus on another passion.

“I have been doing photography for a bit, but it was mainly in my back yard or around campus,” said Joyce. “I’ve always wanted to go to other places around the country and around the world and be able to take pictures of different kinds of wildlife and be able to fully immerse myself in nature and have those experiences.”

In between photo shoots, Joyce is finding time to squeeze in training in anticipation for another year of development as she gets more serious about javelin. Getting stronger and faster will help generate momentum for bigger throws.

“My big goal for this past year was really just to make NCAA nationals,” said Joyce. “The USA Nationals, we decided to do that later on, when it got closer. Next year, I more expect to continue track into the summer more and go to these sorts of meets.”

Joyce continues to improve with each training opportunity. From an encouraging beginning to budding college success, she has positioned herself as a contender for her final two years to come. This year’s Heps, Regionals and NCAA success helped reinforce a future that looks picture perfect.

“It overall makes me excited,” said Joyce. “Going into sophomore year, I was excited to have a normal track season. But really seeing the improvements I was able to make in the course of a year – and I even put these two pictures of my form side by side, and just looking at them, there is such a difference. Just seeing how much I improved, and having all this experience from these larger meets too, and being able to know what to do at them going forward, makes me really excited for next year and really motivated to continue doing well and hopefully continue to have more big jumps.”