Kirk sets world record

It was just another day at the pool for former Bremerton High standout Tara Kirk at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at Texas A&M on March 19 until she looked up at the scoreboard after her 100-meter breaststroke race.

With her time of 1 minute, 4.79 seconds, she had set a new world record.

“I turned around in the water and saw my time — I was so excited — I never really celebrate about my swims in the water but I couldn’t help it,” Kirk said. “All the other girls were hugging me and congratulating me.”

The next day, she won the 200 breast title at the championships by setting an NCAA, American and U.S. Open record time of 2 minutes, 20.70 seconds.

Kirk, a senior at Stanford University, was set to graduate this spring with a degree in human biology, but will delay graduation until this fall because she will spend most of spring training for the Olympic trials.

She is shooting to participate in the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in August.

“It’s not like something I talk about all the time,” said Kirk, on a cell phone call from New York. “My life is much more than just swimming.”

The week after the NCAA championships, she traveled to New York to visit friends.

Kirk said she didn’t think she had a chance to make it to the Olympics until her senior year of college. When she was kid she played soccer and gymnastics as well.

She placed second twice in the 4A state championships in the 100-meter breaststroke and fifth twice in the 10- meter butterfly as a student at Bremerton, where she graduated from in 2000.

At Stanford, Kirk progressed quickly. She became the first swimmer in history to win an NCAA title four straight years in a breast stroke event.

On March 15, she was named the NCAA swimmer of the year.

She finished her collegiate career in the breaststroke event with a 35-0 record. To set the new world record, she topped the previous mark of 1:05.09 set by Australia’s Leisel Jones in 2003.

Kirk said Jones will be one of her top competitors in the Olympics.

The previous American record of 105.74 was set by Georgia’s Kristy Kowal in 2000.

“It was great to set a new world record, it feels like I’ve accomplished something I really wanted to do for a long time.”

Kirk’s mother Margaret said numerous co-workers have approached her to ask about her daughter’s accomplishments.

“I’ve repeated the story to so many people so many times at work,” she said. “I’ve always been proud of her ever since she was little. It’s something the whole community can take credit for.”

Tara Kirk said after she broke the record she was interviewed by several newspapers in the Texas area. She participated in a press conference and was interviewed by ESPN as well.

The NCAA 200 breast stroke race was the last of Kirk’s collegiate career.

“I’ll miss being part of a a great college team,” said Kirk, who won 10 NCAA titles at Stanford. “Being part of a team experience with some amazing girls (was my favorite experience).”

Kirk next will compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Long Beach, Calif., from July 7-14.

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