May 11, 2012
By Dean Caparaz '90
March was an important month for California aquatics - both stateside and Down Under. A week after the Cal women's swimming and diving team won its second straight NCAA championship - and third NCAA title in four years - Lauren Boyle was qualifying for the second Summer Olympics of her career.
The erstwhile Golden Bear - who swam at Cal from 2007-10 - qualified to swim in three individual events (the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyles) and one relay (the 4x200-meter freestyle relay) in London via the State New Zealand Swimming Championships, which ran from March 25-30 in Auckland and doubled as New Zealand's Olympic Trials.
"I was really happy and excited to qualify for the Olympics this year, firstly because it will make me a double Olympian and secondly because I qualified for individual events under much harder qualifying standards than New Zealand swimmers have previously been held to," Boyle said. "I think being selected to represent your country at the Olympics will always be a very exciting moment no matter how many Olympiads I take part in."
She says she will likely swim in just three events in London - the 400 and 800 frees and the 4x200- or 800-free relay. She also swam in the 800-free relay in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Qualifying for the London Olympics in the 400 free was her most memorable moment at Olympic trials.
"It was my first event of the competition, and I had a lot of nervous and anxious feelings going into the meet," Boyle said. "Touching the wall at the end of the race and realizing I had swum a best time and new national record felt gratifying."
She surpassed her own New Zealand mark in the 400 free with a time of 4:05.83 in the final. In the 200 free, she swam a winning time of 1:58.28 and clocked a time of 8:28.15 in the 800. Boyle also won the 1500 free at the championships in a national-record time of 16:20.47, though the 1500 free is not an Olympic event.
For her performances at trials, Boyle earned the State Insurance New Zealand Swimmer of the Year award.
The Swimming New Zealand Awards also lauded Boyle with the National Swimmer of the Year award and the Outstanding International Performance award, and she shared the Relay Team of the Year honor for her success with her country's 800-free relay. She garnered the international award for her success at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China. In Shanghai, she was a finalist in the 400 and 800 frees and a semifinalist in the 200 free and also led New Zealand's 800-free relay to eighth place and to Olympic qualification. In Shenzen, Boyle won gold medals in the 400 and 800 frees, silver in the 200 free and bronze in the 1500 free and led her nation to silver in the 800-free relay.
Next up is more training in New Zealand followed by a return to the San Francisco Bay Area in mid-May to prepare for the Santa Clara Grand Prix, slated for May 31-June 3 in Santa Clara, Calif. A trip to Australia - to train and compete - are next, with a training camp in Belgium the last hurdle before London.
As part of her visit to the Bay Area, Boyle will spend some time in Berkeley. A decorated former Bear, Boyle earned six All-America honors and two honorable mention All-America laurels after competing at the NCAA Championships all four year while at Cal. She contributed to Cal's first NCAA championship as a junior in 2009, when she placed 11th in the 500-yard free. Boyle still holds school records in the 1000 (9:42.14) and 1650 (15:56.93) frees and ranks second in the 500 free (4:37.18) and seventh in the 200 free (1:44.52) in Cal history.
"I really miss the team environment and great coaching staff," Boyle said. "It's hard to come by an environment like Teri and Kristen have built at Cal, which exudes a positive vibe where anything is possible."
An obviously loyal alum, Boyle kept track of both the Cal men's and women's teams online during their respective NCAA Championships.
"The men's NCAAs were on during our New Zealand Olympic trials, so following the results of the Bears was exciting and inspiring," she said. "Back-to-back titles for both teams is truly an amazing feat by the coaches and student-athletes. It makes me so proud to be a Golden Bear."
She is looking forward to seeing some fellow Bears in London as she did in Beijing, when teammates including Emily Silver (USA), Hannah Wilson (Hong Kong), Sherry Tsai (Hong Kong) and Sara Isakovic (Slovenia) also swam in the Water Cube.
"I think seeing Cal mates in London will be much more meaningful and powerful for me this time around," she said. "Now I don't get to see people at Cal every day because I am based in New Zealand. Seeing my old friends and teammates at a pinnacle event of sport is so special and exciting because we get to grow and experience a bond most other people will never understand. We have bonded over experiences at Cal as Golden Bears, and now we can bond over experiencing the Olympic Games together, as well.
"When I see Golden Bears at international swim meets, I feel an overwhelming sense of support. It's almost as if it doesn't matter that you weren't there for the past months. You just slot right back in with the people you have worked so hard with over the years."