Atlanta International School freshman Cara Joyce put together one of the best individual performances at the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state track and field championships May 9 through 11 at Valhalla Stadium in Rome. Joyce won three total events, two individual and one relay, and helped the Eagles place fourth in the Class A Private team competition.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” she said. “I knew the other racers were amazing because I’ve watched them throughout the year. I didn’t expect to perform at their level.”
First up was the 800-meter run, which Joyce won with a time of 2 minutes, 12.79 seconds. The mark was the fastest freshman time in Georgia, the second fastest time for all grades in the entire state and sixth fastest freshman time in the United States.
“My coaches wanted me to have a clear head, so they really didn’t give me a strategy,” Joyce said. “I wanted to stay with the group of runners because I needed them to help me improve my time. I stayed with them in the beginning of the race and happened to find something in the second lap. My strategy was to run the race and stay with the people around me. Its a good median for me to see my speed with strategy.”
Joyce followed it up with another individual win, this time in the 1,600. Her winning time of 4:57.90 set the school record.
“I followed a similar approach to the 800 run and tried to stay with the people ahead of me,” she said. “I managed to find an extra push to get me through the finish line.”
Rounding out the state championships for Joyce was running the final leg of the Eagles’ winning 4x400 relay team. The unit of Rachael Sarelius, Tahlia Pemberton, Reagan Mahoney and Joyce won in 4:01.11, which set another school record.
“That was one of my scarier races because the team was relying on me as the anchor of the race, and they put me in a great position to achieve the win,” Joyce said. “I wanted to do my team proud and ran as fast as I could. We achieved the podium place we wanted.”
Atlanta International Director of Athletics John Amosa said, “Cara is a very talented young lady in many respects. Not only is she the top runner in her class, but also a straight A student in a very rigorous (International Baccalaureate) track. Cara excels on the track and in the classroom, which has earned her the respect of her peers as she is also involved in student government. Cara has balanced numerous school activities and manages to dominate at the highest level on the track.”
Joyce began running track in the sixth grade, which was also her first year at the school.
“I didn’t discover my talent in running until this year, when I started running cross country,” she said. “It was scary and more pressure, but everyone around me worked hard to make me feel comfortable, but it’s impossible to avoid the nerves before the race. I enjoyed running this year because it’s an amazing and humbling experience going against runners at this level.”
Joyce has also found the benefits of running extending beyond the field.
“When I was younger, I struggled with the mental component of running, but now I appreciate how strong it makes you mentally and physically,” she said. “Its helped me in other aspects of my life, because its tough going out there but I’ve stayed with it. If I have a tough test in the classroom, running has helped me work through the stress and use it to my advantage to work harder.”
Joyce’s hobbies include riding horses, playing cello and volunteering for the Best Friends Animal Society.
“One of the most important things in horse riding is balance, and that helped me build strength for running the longer distances this year,” she said.
Joyce has a perfect assessment score of seven out of seven for all of her classes.
“My favorite subject is mathematics because it’s challenging and the logic involved in it,” she said. “I also like computer science because of my interest in interior and product design.”
Joyce lists teammate Reagan Mahoney and Woodstock High School runner Byrnne Sumner as athletes of inspiration. “Reagan has taught me to be the runner that I am and has supported me.,” she said.
Joyce also gives credit to her parents, Gillian and Gareth Joyce, for her success. “They have supported me most on this journey, helped me overcome the physical and mental challenges of running through my limits,” she said.