MUSCATINE — Sarah Schemmel has performed well enough that it's hard to believe that the Muscatine junior swimmer deals with nerves that often.
Yet, as she is set to compete at the Marshalltown Community Y on Saturday during the Iowa state swimming meet, Schemmel admitted she’ll be nervous.
She will compete in four events in her third straight state meet appearance, including the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. She enters the state meet with the top qualifying times in both the 50 and 100 free events, which is where those nerves come from.
“I think it puts more pressure on me but not necessarily in a bad way,” Schemmel said of having the top seed in two events. “It’s just more drive to win.”
Schemmel leads a group of four Muscatine swimmers into the state meet, which begins at 12:30 p.m., including junior Tori Roth and sophomores Jaelynn Klein and Samara Perkins. She earned the top seeds by swimming 23.24 seconds in the 50 free and 51.31 in the 100 free at the Clinton regional meet last Saturday.
“I was happy with my swims,” Schemmel said of her regional efforts. “... Sometimes you swim and it’s just hard to go fast. Other times, it’s easy to go fast. It was easy to go fast that race.”
While she hopes for strong finishes and to improve upon her sixth-place finish at last season’s state meet in the 50 freestyle, Schemmel is eager to see how well she can swim.
“I want to place well, but I really just want to see how fast I can go,” said Schemmel, who goes to school at Durant.
That will be important in Marshalltown as there is just a 1.76-second difference from Schemmel’s top time in the 50 free to the 24th and final qualifier. In the 100 free, she’ll have some strong competition from Lewis Central’s MyKenzie Leehy, who qualified second in 52.18 seconds.
Leehy, who won the 100 free in 50.40 seconds last season as a sophomore, is someone Muscatine coach Judd Anderson believes will be a threat to win the event given how well Lewis Central swimmers have done in Marshalltown recently. He isn’t counting Schemmel out, though.
“There’s nobody that’s not going to know who she is,” Anderson said. “If you’re swimming that race, you’re going to know who Sarah Schemmel is. You’re going to be aware of where she is.”
Though Schemmel will be fighting for a top spot, the Muskies know they won’t be contending for the state team title Saturday. Their focus is simply on improving, with all four swimming qualifiers, as well as relay alternates Erin Goss and Allie Nietzel, returning next season.
“We hope we can score some points,” Anderson said. “Lower your time, that would be the No. 1 objective. Make the scoring sheet, that would be the second objective.”
Roth, like Schemmel, returns to Marshalltown for the third straight season. She’ll be competing in four events for the first time, though, as she joins Schemmel on both relays and will compete in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.
“I’m really excited because it’s more chances to do well, but I’m kind of nervous because I’m in some of the longest races,” Roth said. “It’s going to be tiring.”
A junior, Roth has swam in the 200 IM each of the past two seasons. She finished 19th last season in 2 minutes, 15.99 seconds and is seeded 16th this season with a qualifying time of 2:14.62.
“My first two years was just seeing how I’d do, go up there and do my best,” Roth said of the event. “This year I’m trying to be a little more competitive, maybe try to get in the top 12 or so. Definitely score points.”
Klein and Perkins will also swim a leg on a 200 free relay seeded 23rd and a 400 free relay seeded 18th. With fewer girls out this season and with key contributors like Lexi Hagen lost to injuries, the group has had more opportunities to work together this season.
“Since we’re swimming with them and we swim with them more now, we get a better relationship than we had before,” Klein said. “That’s a lot more fun to go up there to do our best and have fun with people we love.”
No matter the results, Saturday’s meet will be good experience for the future of the Muskie program.
“We’ll kind of have more of a role-model feel to us (next season for the younger swimmers),” Perkins said. “... We can help them that way and give them advice on how to reach their goals because [getting to state] was probably one our biggest goals this season.”