Student Features

Fifth-grader named 2018 champion at state swim meet

Apr 26, 2018

PA Cyber fifth-grader Kara Woods was named 2018 YMCA State Swimming Champion after competing and advancing through two qualifiers. 

Kara Woods, 11, of Quakertown, has been swimming since she was 5 years old and is a junior Olympic level swimmer.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that she placed first in the girls 10 and under 100 freestyle race at the Pennsylvania YMCA championship March 25 at Penn State University. The meet featured the state’s 24 fastest swimmers in each event. Kara also got to the podium for placing sixth in both the 50 freestyle and 50 backstroke in the 10-and-under age group. (Kara turned 11 after the meet.)

In order to compete at the event, Kara first had to qualify to compete in the east district, one of three districts in Pennsylvania together with the central and west districts. 

Her mother, Jenn Woods, said Kara qualified for districts in all her events, an accomplishment that isn’t too common. Winning the freestyle race earned Kara the title of 2018 East District YMCA Swimming Champion. 

For each event at districts, the six fastest swimmers advance onto the state event. 

Kara’s older sister is also an accomplished swimmer and her dad, Scott, assists as a coach. He has been able to take Kara for extra practices and workouts during the day, thanks to her flexible school schedule. 

“We are so proud of her accomplishments, not only because of her successes with school and in the pool, but also with how much she’s grown and been able to heal,” her mother said.

Kara began attending PA Cyber in the fall after having been bullied severely for two years at her previous school. Her family learned that jealousy over Kara’s successes with competitive swimming was part of the issue.

“Kara stopped trusting adults, withdrew academically and socially and no longer would engage in conversations,” her mom said. “She was having nightmares and became so afraid of going to school.”

At PA Cyber, Kara immediately hit it off with Carol Newell, her language arts teacher. As it turns out, Newell understands the sport because her own children swam competitively for a YMCA.

Newell said when swimmers identify themselves in the classroom, there is an automatic bond. 

“Having been a parent of three competitive swimmers over 20 years, I know how to ‘speak swimming.’ Kara represents the swim community well. She is self-disciplined, sets goals, and accomplishes academic tasks so she can stay in the pool. To become a state champion requires a supportive family network, many hours of training, proper rest, and disciplined eating habits,” Newell said.

“It has been a pleasure to partner with Kara and her family this year at PA Cyber. As a school, we offered Kara a safe and encouraging school environment which gave her the freedom to explore her own personal grit in the pool,” Newell said. 

Connecting with Newell was one of the best things that could have happened. Kara began to trust her coaches again and was able to better focus on her swimming this past season, doing well at the culminating meet. Her grades are also excellent, averaging all As and B’s.

“It has not only been integral with helping Kara regain confidence with talking to adults, but it has also helped her blossom in her swimming,” Jenn Woods said. “We thank PA Cyber for being a wonderful option for her and we also thank Mrs. Newell for being an amazing teacher.”




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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.