Emma Schoettmer estimates it’s a seven-minute walk from the house she shares with two teammates to the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
By the way, the facility used by both the University of Arizona men’s and women’s swim programs is outdoors. No ceiling, only sky. Instead of cold, hard walls, the coaches and athletes have no choice but to observe trees and mountains during the course of meets and practices alike.
“In August we had a couple of practices that were stormed out,” said Schoettmer, a two-time IHSAA state champion from Center Grove High School who now is a freshman at Arizona. “Swimming outside is different. I love it.
“You’re not constantly inhaling chlorine, and it’s nice to be able to see the sky.”
The Schoettmer file
Name: Emma Schoettmer
Family: Parents, Dave and Amy; sister, Tori, 17
High school: 2012 Center Grove graduate
College: University of Arizona
Events: 100 and 200 breaststroke; 200 individual medley
High school highlights: State champion in the 100 breaststroke in 2010 and 2012; runner-up in 2011 and fourth-place in 2009; school record-holder in 200 medley
Schoettmer, 18, is in a good place. A warm place. And for her, the perfect place.
“Other than the fact it’s November and I’m swimming outside, I feel like I’m at home,” she said. “I really like my teammates and coaches, and I’ve made a lot of new friends.”
Majoring in anthropology, Schoettmer, a four-time Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference selection, is making the transition from being a big fish in a relatively small body of water to a member of a roster filled with state champions.
Diversity reigns at Arizona, where the 22-member women’s team has athletes from 10 different states and three countries.
This is, after all, a women’s swim program that just four years ago won its first NCAA championship. The Wildcats’ recruiting net typically is a wide one.
How these Wildcats fare remains unknown as their first meet was Oct. 19-20 against the University of Hawaii. It’s here Schoettmer posted Arizona’s fastest time of the season in the 200 breaststroke (2:13.58) and the Wildcats’ third-best 100 breaststroke (1:02.88).
Second-year head coach and Arizona alum Eric Hansen also has Schoettmer competing in the 200 individual medley, not her specialty, but at the moment she’s put in the team’s fifth-fastest performance (2:09.88).
“Emma is doing fantastic. I really enjoy coaching her. She knows what she wants and believes in what we’re doing,” Hansen said. “She’s a hard worker. Very quiet, but so is (Arizona men’s All-American) Kevin Cordes.
“They speak softly and kick some butt.”
Schoettmer will be in Los Angeles this weekend as ninth-ranked Arizona competes against No. 1 USC on Friday and 15th-ranked UCLA on Saturday. Farther down the road looms the U.S. Winter Nationals at the University of Texas from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
It’s here Schoettmer finds herself taking on an outstanding field in both of the two breaststroke events. Nothing new considering the caliber of elite swimmers she’s competed against in recent months.
In June, Schoettmer participated in the United States Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the CenturyLink Convention Center and Arena in Omaha, Neb. Failing to qualify for the Olympic Games, she nonetheless became better at her specialties because of the experience. Just like she’s doing now.
“I want to see Emma continue to buy into what she’s doing, to focus on the game-plan and enjoy competing,” Hansen said. “Swimming is her passion, and to have a kid who parallels your passion, they’re fun to coach.”