Dec. 11, 2013
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's December edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, the UI athletics department's online publication.
By DAN WALLACE
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Growing up, University of Iowa freshman Emma Sougstad didn't live in the swimming pool, but she did have the next best thing.
"I grew up living across the street from our local pool, which was convenient," said Sougstad. "I swam all day long, every day when I was little."
Starting at the age of five, Sougstad would follow her older brothers to the pool and spend countless days playing in the water. It is no wonder that she is now one of the top freshmen on the UI women's swimming and diving team.
It wasn't always obvious that she was destined for the pool. Growing up in Forest City, Iowa, Sougstad was a standout in track and field, basketball, and swimming, which kept her busy year-round. When the time came for Sougstad to settle on a sport, her first love of swimming stood out.
"Swimming was the one I excelled the most in, I loved the most, and the one that I could really enjoy," said Sougstad. "I liked the people that I was around in swimming the most, and that was important."
Once Sougstad committed to swimming full-time, the results followed. She was a 10-time All-American, 11-time first team all-state, and a three-time second team all-state honoree at Forest City High School.
With the accolades came colleges. Iowa, along with Western Kentucky, TCU, and Minnesota were interested in Sougstad. UI head coach Marc Long knew what they were getting when they recruited Sougstad.
"We knew she was a racer, and she is kind of a non-traditional swimmer in the sense that she played a lot of other sports growing up," said Long. "Coming from a small town in Iowa gives her an edge because she is used to competing so much in other sports and other venues. She was a good fit for us."
In her first season as a Hawkeye, Sougstad is already a solid contributor. She has won a combined six individual and relay events, and currently is among the team leaders in the 50-yard freestyle (23.55), 100 breaststroke (1:02.58), and 200-IM (2:03.16). Following the first competition of her career at Michigan, Sougstad was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Oct. 1.
Even with her early success in the pool, Sougstad has faced many of the same challenges as other student-athletes in their first year on campus.
"Everything is harder, but in a good way," said Sougstad. "It pushes you to be the best you can be. I have teammates pushing me constantly and coaches that expect the most out of me, which is nice."
Sougstad is now focusing her attention on obtaining qualifying times for the NCAA Championships next spring. Sougstad hopes to qualify in the 200-IM and 100 breaststroke events.
Whenever the time is met and Sougstad qualifies for the NCAA Championships, it will mark another chapter in her inaugural Hawkeye season.
"I never expected any of this to happen as a freshman," said Sougstad. "I expected to come in, try my best, and see where I fit in. It has worked out well so far."