FRESHMAN SENSATION

First-year Cardinal Karla Bailey was turned on to swimming by a broken leg at age 8.

She snubbed larger schools like Missouri to bring her substantial talents to Ball State.

If Karla Bailey had not broken her leg at age 8, she may not be the athlete she is today. Shortly after the injury, her mom, Maureen, convinced her to take up swimming to help strengthen the broken leg.

Throughout middle school, she played five sports but eventually decided swimming was the sport to pursue.

Bailey's high school coach, Jon Carlson, pushed her to succeed mentally by doing yoga. Her Young Women's Christian Association coach, Bob Strube, stressed physical training by setting up sprints and endurance builders for her to complete.

Through all the motivation, Bailey has found herself in a leading roll on the Ball State women's swimming and diving team.

A little over a year ago, Bailey signed her letter of intent to come to Ball State on a swimming scholarship. Back then she had no idea how much of an impact she would make in her freshman year.

When leaders such as Andrea Russell, Erinn Hitch and All-American diver Beth Clark departed from Ball State last year, women's swimming head coach Laura Seibold-Caudill was forced to re-build. Alongside diving coach Dave Garrow, she recruited 18 freshman athletes for the 2001-02 season.

Through strong performances in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events and the 200-yard individual medley, Bailey has become the runaway star of the freshman class.

She is also the only Cardinal swimmer that has consistently won her events in competition this year.

"Karla is a very talented young woman," Seibold-Caudill said. She is able to pull it all together at every meet. She enjoys what she's doing."

Bailey decided to come to Ball State over Big 12 Conference powerhouse Missouri because of a higher scholarship offer. Coming from her hometown of Naperville, Ill., Ball State also looked more attractive because of its proximity to home.

With a senior class that is not as strong as in years past, Bailey has had a chance to start every meet this season and finish with several strong performances.

Bailey had the best overall individual performance at the Miami Invitational in late November. She posted a time of 2:24.20 in the 200 breaststroke and a 2:09.3 in the 200 IM at the invite.

She also took home Ball State's highest ranking at the invite, placing fifth in the 200 breaststroke. The Miami Invitational serves as a preview to the year's most important meet - the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Bailey then set a new season-best time in the 200 IM against Ohio State on Jan. 11 by winning the event with a time of 2:08.83.

In practice, the team's top performer swims with the upperclassmen because they challenge her more in sprints and relays. Often, there are leadership roles for Bailey to fill at meets.

"They count on me to lead the set," Bailey said. "If I do well, then it's like a chain reaction. It helps motivate the rest of the team."

Bailey often works out with senior Kate Willets, who swims alongside the freshman standout in all of her events. They usually do their morning sprints together in the same lane.

"(Bailey) is a blue-chip athlete who knows how to swim fast at every meet," Seibold-Caudill said. "Her performances help motivate the rest of the team because she always does so well."


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