Top Teens 2010

Meet the 10 winners of our first Extraordinary Teen Awards.

(page 5 of 11)

The Olympic Contender

Caroline Queen

Senior, The Bullis School

Nine-year-old Caroline Queen wasn’t seeking athletic glory when she kayaked away from the other campers at the lake at Valley Mill Camp in Darnestown. She was just looking for adventure.

She found it when she ended up in the middle of a club team’s practice, with athletes twice her age. She clocked a time so competitive, the team’s coach called Caroline’s parents to ask if he could train her.

“I called [my husband] David and said, ‘Kayaking— that’s like canoeing, right?’ ” says Caroline’s mother, Sharon, an admissions representative at The Bullis School in Potomac. “Whenever people ask where she got her athletic talent, we say, ‘Don’t look at us.’”

Now a senior at Bullis and about to turn 18, Caroline was the youngest woman ever to make the U.S. National Team at 15. She has traveled around the world, from Europe to Australia, to compete and is a contender for a spot on the U.S. kayaking team that will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“She seems to perform best under the most stressful conditions,” says National Team coach Silvan Poberaj. “Mentally, she’s very strong.”

At Bullis, Caroline has maintained straight A’s and served as a peer mentor despite frequent absences for competition, not to mention a demanding schedule. Practices with Poberaj’s club team at the Bethesda Center of Excellence typically last two hours daily.

Caroline also hits the weight room a few times a week, and runs on off days.

After barely missing a spot on the 2008 Olympic team, Caroline sensed approaching burnout. So she stopped kayaking entirely and took up field hockey her junior year, serving as captain this year. She says the time off made her stronger mentally and eager to return to the sport. 

“I’ve always really wanted to maintain balance in my life,” she says. “I’ve seen other people go through periods of pessimism toward the sport, and I never want to be in that situation.”

Andrew Delinsky, Bullis’ upper school principal, says Caroline remains “just a genuinely nice girl.… You get the sense that she’s almost embarrassed to talk about her accomplishments.”

Sharon Queen says she and her husband, an investment banker for Wells Fargo, sometimes forget how much their daughter has accomplished. The family lives in Darnestown. And last summer, they worried about Caroline getting around Washington, D.C. “She said, ‘You know, I have done this in countries where I didn’t speak the language.’ ”

Caroline is eyeing Davidson College in North Carolina for its proximity to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, an important facility for U.S. kayakers, and Georgetown University for its proximity to her current coach. She hopes to study international relations to build on her love of other cultures, and sports psychology to help athletes with the mind games she has mastered.

“When I’m 30, I see myself being involved in one of those fields, and I see myself still being involved with kayaking somehow,” Caroline says. “My main goal is, I don’t want to feel like I wasted any time.”

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