INDIANAPOLIS -- Long recognized as a tough competitor, talented swimmer and all-around exemplary team member, Bates senior Kara Leasure earned the moniker "The Ultimate Warrior" from her teammates at last month's NESCAC Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, when Leasure took the matter of extending her career into an appearance at the NCAA Championships into her own hands.
At the NCAA meet in at the Indiana Natatorium, Leasure swam the 500 free on Wednesday, finishing 39th overall in 5:15.20, and in the 400 IM on Thursday, when she took 24th place in 4:38.97. But for Leasure the main event is Saturday's 200 breaststroke event, in which she is the 15th seed among 31 swimmers (Live Video / Live Results). Preliminary heats will get going shortly after 10am.
Leasure established herself as one of Bates' finest swimmers even as a first-year student hailing from Los Alamos, New Mexico, but until her winning performance in the 200-yard breaststroke at NESCACs she hadn't yet met her career-long goal of going to NCAAs. "You could tell there were 365 days of focus and determination all bottled up into one last perfect and final race," said head coach Peter Casares.
Capping off a three-day meet in which she made huge contributions to the team each day, helping the Bobcats tie for their best-ever finish at NESCACs, in fifth place, she finished the 200 breast final in 2:21.11, breaking her own Bates record event and adding a third NCAA 'B' cut time to her name.
She had also recorded a national consideration time of 4:35.58 in the 400 individual medley, and another in the 500 freestyle (5:04.09) — remarkably unusual versatility.
"Nearly all athletes will focus on either their specialty (in her case breaststroke), or distance freestyle, or the IM -- rarely do you see someone go national level times in all three," said Casares.
Leasure was the last swimmer cut from the 200 breaststroke field for last year's NCAA Championships, just a tenth of a second shy of making the field. Which makes it all the more unusual that, battling shoulder injuries all the way, Leasure stuck with her plan of training in all of her disparate events this season, whereas others might have narrowed their focus toward perfecting a single event.
"It has been an honor to coach Kara," said Casares, "and I am thrilled she got one more month of swimming here for Bates -- and a chance to compete against the best in the nation. We couldn't ask for better representation from the program."