MUSCATINE — The Muscatine girls swimming and diving team is expecting to get more from less this season.
Though overall turnout for the program is down slightly this season, several of the returning Muskie swimmers and divers are looking to climb back up on the medal podium later this fall at the state meet in Marshalltown.
Longtime coach Judd Anderson said around 20 girls will be competing for the Muskies at the Carver Swim Center this fall.
"There are not a lot of freshmen but we really try to embrace them like the rest of our team," Muscatine junior Tori Roth said. "We were close as a big team, and we're close now, too."
Roth is one of four returning state qualifiers for the Muskies, along with fellow juniors Sarah Schemmel and Lexi Hagen and senior diver Jaycie Klein. Roth teamed with Schemmel, Hagen and Regan Kilburn to finish 12th in the 400 freestyle relay at the Marshalltown Community Y.
Kilburn, now swimming at Northern Michigan University, is the biggest hole the Muskies need to fill right away as she was a two-time state medalist and four-time conference champion in the backstroke.
"We're a little thin in the backstroke this year," Anderson said. "Samara Perkins is probably the leading candidate (to replace Kilburn) there. … She's done a lot of swimming in the offseason, so she's probably as well prepared as anybody to step up."
Offseason training has been common amongst the Muskie swimmers as they worked to keep their abilities sharp for the first meet at home against Bettendorf on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Schemmel, who goes to school in Durant, said she was able to drop her times in the 50 and 100 freestyle during USA Swimming's winter and summer seasons. Schemmel already has the school record in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 individual medley and is part of record-setting 200 and 400 free relay teams. Schemmel combined with Annabel Graettinger, Kilburn and Hagen to finish sixth in the 200 medley relay.
"I just worked on breathing less [between strokes]," Schemmel said. "Dropping time is the main goal. … Maybe I can get another record or two."
Roth took some one-on-one lessons over the summer to work on improving her catch in her freestyle stroke, hoping to get cleaner pulls in the water that will help her toward her goal of qualifying for state in the 500 free. Roth was fifth in the event at last season's regional meet.
"I feel really prepared because I trained pretty hard this summer," Roth said. "I'm excited to get back to high school because [club swimming] isn't quite the same team atmosphere as you get with high school swimming."
Klein, meanwhile, will climb back on the diving board in her senior season, looking for a fourth-consecutive appearance at the state diving meet to add to what Anderson called a "very accomplished" resume.
She was fifth at last season's state meet with a career-best score of 467.20 in the 11-dive event, breaking her own school record. Mallory Freers, a sophomore, will also dive and is trying to gain experience to follow in the footsteps of Klein, who is currently the most state-experienced athlete on the roster.
The incoming freshmen with significant experience include Sarah Schoer, who Anderson said has swimming experience at the YMCA level, and Carol Ford, a recent transplant from Sioux City that Anderson expects to learn more about as the season goes on.
Anderson, inducted into the Iowa High School Swim Coaches' Association Hall of Fame last winter and a recipient of an Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Plaque of Distinction at last season's state meet, expects to know where all of his girls rank up not long after the season-opening meet against the Bulldogs.
"The first meet will tell us as far as where we sit as a dual-meet team, but we're not so focused on the dual meet lineups," he added. "We have a couple of invite meets at Linn-Mar and Burlington, and those will probably tell us more about where we stand against the better swimmers in the state."