Emma Schoettmer has an Olympic dream but is focused on an immediate challenge.
Today, the University of Arizona sophomore is competing at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Minneapolis.
A two-time, two-event NCAA qualifier, she is participating in the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes. Her objective is to reach the finals in one or both races, which she was unable to accomplish last season.
This time, she expects a different result.
“Going into the meet this year, I’m a lot faster than I was last year,” said Schoettmer, a former Center Grove standout who won two IHSAA state championships for the Trojans. “I have a lot of confidence in myself to improve my times. At the Pac-12 (championships), I wasn’t fully rested, and I was swimming right at my best times, so I’m interested to see where I’m able to go now.”
If all goes according to plan, Schoettmer will arrive at a podium finish in her signature event, the 200 breaststroke, and possibly in her secondary specialty, the 100 breaststroke.
One of eight NCAA qualifiers from 10th-ranked Arizona, Schoettmer enters the NCAAs steeled by last year’s experience and boosted by the fact she is clocking the best times of her career.
Last year, as a true freshman, her personal-best time in the 100 breaststroke was 1:01.34. Her personal best in the 200 breaststroke was 2:10.74.
This year, she shattered her personal bests in both races. She went 1:00.57 in the 100 and 2:08.44 in the 200, clocking both in early December at the Texas Invitational.
Schoettmer was just a shade above both times three weeks ago at the Pac-12 Championships, going 1:00.69 in the 100 and and 2:09.91 in the 200. She has not raced since and is fully rested for the NCAAs, hosted by Minnesota at the University Aquatic Center.
“I just want to make it to the finals this year,” Schoettmer said. “I have a lot of confidence in my 200, which is an event I never really got to focus on in high school. I think that’s my main focus, but the 100 is also a potential second (finals) swim.
“Just improving my times will give me a chance.”
A two-time 100 breaststroke state champion at Center Grove, Schoettmer made an immediate impact as an Arizona freshman and wasted little time setting an even faster pace as a sophomore.
Schoettmer won the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, and was part of the blue-ribbon 400 medley relay, in the season-opener at Utah. In the Wildcats’ home-opener, she won the 100 and 200 breaststrokes against UNLV and went on to win both races in a team victory against league rival UCLA.
She swept both breaststroke races, and was part of the winning 200 medley relay, in a nationally televised meet against Oregon State, New Mexico State and Northern Arizona. She finished fourth in the 200 breaststroke and fifth in the 100 breaststroke at the Pac-12 Championships and enters the NCAAs with significantly higher expectations than last year, when she was simply glad to have qualified.
This time, she is buoyed by her dramatic offseason improvement.
“I kind of had an expectation (last year) that I should at least make the (NCAAs),” Schoettmer said. “But I think this year it came as a surprise with just how fast I started to drop time at our first big meet at Texas in December. My coach (assistant Wildcats coach Brandy Collins) has all the confidence in me that I didn’t know I had. I think the transition, working with her and and everything I’ve done this season, has been a pleasant surprise.
“It’s boosted my confidence for this meet coming up.”
Although the NCAAs harken the end of the college season, Schoettmer’s training will be ongoing. She’ll take a little time off at the end of the semester to visit family in the Center Grove area but will return for Arizona’s long-course program in preparation for a series of summer meets that will, for hopefuls like Schoettmer, serve as fine-tuning for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Schoettmer participated in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she finished 10th in the 200 breaststroke. She is confident that her college experience will not only relaunch her to the trials but will culminate in a spot on the 2016 Women’s U.S. Olympic Swimming and Diving Team.
She’s aspired to reach the Olympics since her early days at Center Grove.
“Right now, the focus for the (Wildcats) team is the NCAAs and the short-course program,” Schoettmer said. “But when we do train in the summer, I focus on what I can transition over to my long course. And after I graduate, I’ll have another shot (at the Olympics).
For the moment, she is savoring a college experience that has been more satisfying than she ever imagined.
“I love it out here. It’s everything I expected, and a little bit more,” she said. “My season this year has gone a lot better than I ever thought it would. I’m on track to where I want to be, so I’m excited.”