Class: Sophomore. Age: 16
Accomplishment: Kim helped Leonia/Palisades Park finish on top at the NJIC championships with first-place times in the 200 medley relay (1:55.57), 200 freestyle (1:53.14), 500 freestyle (4:55.29) and 200 freestyle relay (1:46.33).
Story by Sean Farrell / NorthJerseycom
Some swimmers break records. Iris Kim simply obliterates them.
The Leonia/Palisades Park sophomore made history again on Saturday at the NJIC championships by turning in the top times in the 200 and 500 freestyles. Both were more than seven seconds faster than any before at the conference tournament.
Kim defies logic with her ability to sustain high speeds for a long period of time and treat a distance race like a sprint. Her turns are some of the fastest coach Tim Ryan has ever seen and her technique is a thing of beauty. No one has beaten Kim in an individual race this season.
“It seems sometimes like she’s in a different sport than everyone else,” Ryan said. “She’s so fast. I’ve never seen somebody this good.”
Kim has been found money for the Lions this season. After living in Cresskill her entire life, she moved to Leonia this past year and knocked off school and county records in both distance freestyles.
Her brother Joram is a freshman swimmer at Bowdoin College, and her parents – both immigrants from South Korea – wanted to let him finish out his high school tenure before changing towns.
Moving to a new place can be tricky, but Iris didn’t feel like a complete fish out of water when she unpacked her bags in Leonia. Four of her high school teammates swim with her on the Scarlet Aquatics club program.
“It helped me grow into the community,” Kim said. “It was an easier and smoother transition than I thought it would be.”
One thing the Scarlets have excelled at is producing some of the best distance swimmers around North Jersey. A typical week for Iris can include close to 60,000 yards of swimming and some cardio work on the side.
That grueling schedule can make her appreciate the more laid-back feel of the high school game.
“After being at club meets, it’s definitely been a lot more fun because club meets are more individual,” Kim said. “There’s a lot more pressure. When you do high school swimming, it’s swimming as a team rather than individual.”
Success makes it easy to have fun at Leonia/Palisades Park (8-1). The Lions placed third at the Bergen County championships and clinched their ninth straight conference meet title. Ryan expects his sophomore to set more school records when all is said and done, but the focus for now is on team success.
The next order of business is to chase after the program’s first sectional title as the No. 2 seed in North 1B.
“We’re fortunate that she moved to Leonia and we’re thankful every day that she’s on our team and a part of our group,” Ryan said. “Like all our kids, she’s just a great teammate and anytime we need her for a meet, she’s ready to go.”
While Kim is calm and unassuming by the blocks, she is full of energy below the surface.
When she won the county title in the 500 freestyle, her anchor leg was more than two seconds faster than anyone else’s. Her last four splits (1:55.34) would have landed her gold if entered into the 200 freestyle.
It didn’t matter than her closest competitor was almost a full lap behind. Fatigue is not part of her vernacular.
“At club practices, my coach makes us practice doing negative splits,” Kim said. “So you would actually go faster at the end than the beginning. So I definitely think that’s helped with my distance.”