MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — All Sarah Schemmel could do was smile.
That was the type of day the Muscatine junior swimmer had Saturday.
Competing in her third straight Iowa girls state swimming meet at the Marshalltown Community Y, Schemmel claimed individual titles in the 50 freestyle in 23.24 seconds and the 100 freestyle in 50.51 seconds, earning the first Muscatine swimming titles — individual or relay — since 1985.
Schemmel's winning time in both events automatically earned her All-American status, and she capped her day by being named the meet's outstanding swimmer.
The performance, even on the heels of an outstanding season, was hard for Schemmel to put into words late Saturday afternoon.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, but then it was amazing,” Schemmel said of the hour where she won her two titles. “I was very happy.”
With the two victories, Schemmel joins an exclusive group within the Muskie program, joining former Olympian and two-time state winner Cris Ahmann and four-time champion Susanna Barry as the only individual title winners in program history.
Ahmann was the last to win a state title for Muscatine when she won the 50 free and 100 butterfly in 1985. The Muskies 200 medley relay also won that season.
“She deserves all the accolades she gets," Muscatine girls swimming coach Judd Anderson said of Schemmel. "… She’s one of those special ones.”
Schemmel didn’t get the best start in the 50 free, where she said she went in deep on the dive in and came up funny but was still in the front before the turn and would touch the wall just ahead of Ames’ Sophie Sorenson (23.32) and Johnston’s Lexie Winnett (23.66).
“Getting out front right away helps a lot because my turns aren’t good,” Schemmel said. “If I can be ahead before the wall, that helps.”
Less than 40 minutes after her first win, Schemmel was back on the starting block for the 100 free with Lewis Central’s MyKenzie Leehy, the defending state champion and state record holder in the event, in the lane to her left.
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“I’d seen [Zoe Pawlowski] in the 200 freestyle earlier from Lewis Central go out and dominate her heat and have a huge time drop,” Anderson said.” I remember [Leehy] doing that last year and I knew what she was capable of doing. It wasn’t an enviable position for Sarah to be in, being the hunted.”
Schemmel got off to a good start, though, and was either even or just ahead of Leehy for nearly the entire race.
“It was pretty cool,” Schemmel said of swimming with Leehy. “I breathe to the right, so I didn’t know I was in the lead until the second [25-yard lap]. I was like, ‘I’m in the lead. I got to keep going.’”
She touched the wall in 50.51 seconds, a career-best time in the event.
“That one felt good,” Schemmel said. “My turns weren’t too bad, and I wasn’t really tired swimming. It felt pretty smooth, so that was good.”
Thanks to Schemmel’s two wins and diver Jaycie Klein’s fourth-place finish Friday night, the Muskies finished 13th as a team with 55 points. Ames easily outdistanced the field to win the team title with 355 points.
Junior Tori Roth finished 20th in the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes, 16.58 seconds and 24th in the 500 freestyle in 5:24.86. Roth teamed with Schemmel and sophomores Samara Perkins and Jaelynn Klein to finish 22nd in 1:42.88 in the 200 freestyle relay and 20th in 3:45.14 in the 400 freestyle relay.
“We had spent a great deal last week (at the regional meet), took a lot of our money out of the bank, so to speak, to get here,” Anderson said of his team. “They all swam well. They got the state-meet experience.”
That experience is something that Anderson hopes proves beneficial next season when all four state swimmers, both alternates and several other varsity swimmers should be back.
Among them will be Schemmel, a Durant student who has made herself at home in Muscatine having set six individual school records and only added to her accomplishments with her efforts Saturday, which set the bar even higher for next season.
“It’s been amazing to accomplish all that, but I had a lot of support from my teammates and my classmates and just other friends at Muscatine and my family,” Schemmel said.
She added, as another big smile broke across her face, “I don’t know if I can top this.”