2013 Glendale News Press Female Athlete of the Year

Mission League and CIF Southern Section Division I Swimming Champion Kirsten Vose of Flintridge Sacred Heart is this year's Glendale News-Press Female Athlete of the Year. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

Success on the high school swimming scene came quicker than expected for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s Kirsten Vose.

An impressive freshman season highlighted by a runner-up finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 2012 CIF Southern Section Division I finals certainly raised the stakes for Vose diving into her sophomore season.

Vose, a La Crescenta resident, responded by not losing a single race leading into CIF in 2013. She certainly raised the stakes even further when she posted the best times in the Division I prelims in the both the breaststroke and 200 individual medley.

After a dramatic win in the 200-yard medley relay and slip-up in the individual medley, Vose came back in style when she won the breast — her signature event. It will only raise the stakes for her junior and senior campaigns.

It came after Vose took the Mission League Finals by storm, winning all four events she swam — the breaststroke, individual medley, 200- and 400-freestyle relays. With a wealth of wins in hand, Vose was the unanimous selection for the All-Area Girls’ Swimmer of the Year award in just her second season.

Without any debate, Vose has also been named the 2012-13 Glendale News-Press Female Athlete of the Year, as she thinks up a way to improve on this past season.

If the last two years are an example, one can expect progress from not only Vose, but Sacred Heart as a whole. Vose’s CIF victories in the breaststroke and 200-medley relay with Katie Altmayer, Emily Balog and Kate Herrill were the Tologs’ first since current USC swimmer and national talent Andrea Kropp won the breaststroke in 2010.

After Kropp graduated, Sacred Heart slipped from 16th to 34th in Division I in 2011. With the addition of Vose, a deep but not quite front-runner Tolog team climbed to 14th in 2012 and also won its first outright Mission League title in two years. This year, the Tologs repeated in league and moved up to seventh place in CIF.

Instead of sitting back and pondering what’s to come, Vose has spent her summer preparing for her junior season with her club Rose Bowl Aquatic Swim team. She recently competed at the National Swim Club Assn. Summer Championships in Indianapolis.

Recently, the News-Press Female Athlete of the Year saw down with sports writer Andrew Shortall to talk about the season past. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Andrew Shortall: How busy has summer been, is it a little bit crazier during summer than actually during the school year for you?

Kirsten Vose: It is crazier swim-wise, not exactly school-wise because we don’t have as much. Sometimes we practice another time during the day, so we have two practices instead of one. It’s a little more than what we do during the school year.

AS: Can you take me through a normal day for you during the summer, how it starts, how it ends and what you’re doing?

KV: Recently, we’ve had 5:30 practice, so I go to the Rose Bowl and then that goes until 7:30 and then I have to shower and change really quickly so I can go up to summer school at 8 o’clock. That goes until noon and then I have practice 3:30 to 5. I have free time until 3:30.

AS: I imagine it has to be kind of crazy preparing for Nationals, is this the first year you’re doing Nationals or have you gone before?

KV: I have never gone to a Junior Nationals in summertime, I’ve gone to them in the winter and spring. The summer ones are faster times than the winter and spring ones, so it’s going to be interesting; just hope for the best.

AS: Do you have any goals in mind or are you just taking it as it comes?

KV: I definitely want to try to make it back in as many races as I can, it’s going to be really challenging.

AS: We’ve talked a little before about how you started swimming when you were 10, can you tell me when it was you started taking swimming seriously? Was it when you first made it onto Rose Bowl?

KV: Probably when I just first started swimming Rose Bowl because once I started Rose Bowl I barely knew how to do the strokes, I couldn’t dive or flip turn. My first couple groups really helped me and I think once I got to swim in the higher groups, I really took it more seriously and got into it.

AS: Do you feel like you were always kind of a natural, though, when it comes to swimming? Obviously, you’re very tall and that helps that you have that natural swimmer’s build. Was that natural talent always kind of sitting there?

KV: I’ve always just loved the water, I guess that’s a bonus. If we were at someone’s house, my parents couldn’t get me out, I was just playing around in the water. Swimming-wise, I don’t really know if I was or not, but I just found something I really loved to do, so I think that helped, as well to progress.

AS: Was there a moment where you realized, “Hey, I might be good at this? I have fun with this but I might actually be pretty good at this.” Was there a moment where it kind of clicked with you?

KV: I feel like there was at some time, I just have no idea when, probably a couple years ago.

AS: When you first started, were you winning a lot or did it take time to get to that point?

KV: By the end of my first year [with Rose Bowl], I think I won two medals at the Junior Olympics. I realized I actually had some skill possibly, but I don’t know if it ever hit me or not.

AS: What was it that made you choose Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy as your high school? Obviously, there’s other public schools, private schools in the area. What was it about Sacred Heart?

KV: We heard a lot of great things from Katie Altmayer, she’s a year ahead of me and we swam together, and we just knew [Crescenta Valley] wasn’t going to be the best fit for me, so we were looking at other schools. That’s the only school I applied to, so I just hoped I got in. I just loved the atmosphere of it when I went and visited.

AS: What is it, what is that atmosphere that appeals to you?

KV: I just feel like everyone is more like just family and if you’re having a bad day nobody cares, they just support you through it and try to make you laugh. I feel like you’ve got to experience it to get the whole part.

AS: Did you expect, coming into Sacred Heart, to start winning right away like you did, taking second at CIF?

KV: Not at all, that was such a surprise to me.

AS: How was it you were able to do that, do you think?

KV: I think it was a lot of team support and being there for me and everybody else. I don’t know, just racing hard I guess.

AS: How do you approach races and big meets? Do you think about it before time or try not to think about things?

KV: I try not to over think it because when I over think it then I stress out. I mess up because I let weird things in my head.

AS: Your freshman year you took second, which might have been a surprise, but did that raise your expectations? Did you come into sophomore year thinking, “I want to win CIF, I want to win the breaststroke?”

KV: Yeah, I knew it was going to be really hard to do, but I thought I had a pretty good chance if I was right on it. If I really raced hard, I had a possibility to win. That was definitely my goal for the whole year until the next CIF.

AS: How do you think this season affects next season for you personally, with the success that you’ve had?

KV: I have no clue.

AS: Does it set expectations higher for you?

KV: Probably, especially for breaststroke, people are going to be aiming to get me now. A little stressful, but if I just race like I did then hopefully it turns out good, right?

AS: Did your sophomore year feel different from freshman year? Was there a difference you could tell for personally?

KV: I just feel like I knew everybody better, so they could cheer me on and support me in a different way than they could have freshman year.

AS: How did you come into specializing in the breaststroke? It’s your No. 1 stroke obviously, how was it that you started swimming that? Did somebody point you to that?

KV: I think it was when I was in one of the lower groups at Rose Bowl. One of the coaches, they just put me in anything just to see what I was good at and one of the coaches realized I was actually good at breaststroke. That’s when they started putting me in more breaststroke races just to see how I would do. I guess from there on it kind of just stuck.

AS: Coach [Steve Bergen] and Kate [Herrill] were telling me about Andrea Kropp and how she’s motivated the whole team and you, too. Would you say the accomplishments Andrea had in her time at Sacred Heart, does that push you at all? Do you also want to hit that level, too?

KV: Yeah, she set really good school records, so Kate and I are both just trying to see if we can eventually break one or two or however many possible. Also, just her success as a swimmer overall. If we could get to that point then it gets us in a better mind set that we could be just as good as her.

AS: I know one difference this year was the addition of Kate to the team, and talking to Steve [Bergen] and to her, there’s a little friendly competition there because you guys swim with each other a lot and swim a lot of the same events. She’s a really good swimmer, how is it swimming with her everyday? Does she push you?

KV: We definitely both push each other. When we race in competitions right next to each other it stresses me out a little bit, I don’t know why. We race against each other, next to each other everyday in practice. During the races, it puts more pressure on me, I guess. No matter who wins, because either of us can win on any given day, at the end of the day we’re always still friends with each other.

AS: What’s your goals for next year, personally and for the team?

KV: The team goal would probably be to go undefeated and win league again for the third year, that’d be exciting if that happens. Me personally, probably at CIF just do as well or better than I did this year.

AS: What’s the goal for CIF as a team?

KV: Probably to get higher than we were this year and see how high we can get.

AS: What’s your career goals at Sacred Heart, do you set any? It seems like maybe you’re the type of person that doesn’t set goals and takes things as they come.

KV: I try not to get numbers in my head, because when I do I completely don’t swim well at all. I just chase the cut and I go super slow. I have a goal, but I don’t look up what the time exactly is, so I don’t have it in my head during the race freaking out. Probably just to do what I did this year, try to get All-Americans again in the IM and breaststroke.

AS: How about swimming outside of high school, do you want to swim collegiately? How far do you want swimming to take you?

KV: Right now, I want to swim in college, but I don’t really know if I am going to swim after college or not. I still have a ways to go before college. I feel like I will go all the way through college swimming-wise.