AURORA — Mesabi East junior Emma Williams has embraced the sport of swimming for her entire life.
With an older sister that guided her from a young age and a twin sister that pushes her today, Williams has taken charge in the sport and has proven to be a force to reckon with in just about every stroke.
“Swimming has always been in my life,” Williams said Friday at the Mesabi East pool. “It will always be in my life. It’s just huge for our family from my sisters to everybody else.”
This year, Williams was breaking record after record in the 100 yard backstroke, even taking records set by her older sister Megan just a few years ago.
With the season coming to an end at the section meet, Williams came away with section titles in the backstroke, the 200 yard individual medley and as part of the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay teams. In addition, the Giants captured their third straight Section 7A title.
For her efforts this year, Williams has been named the All-Iron Range Girls Swimmer of the Year by the Mesabi Tribune and the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
The effects of COVID-19 left the season three weeks shorter and without a state meet, leaving Williams and the rest of the Giants unsure of what would come one day after the next.
“Throughout the whole season, we were just scared we’d be shut down the next day. Suddenly we might not have practice or a meet the next day so we just took every day we could and swam our hardest at practice. Each meet we were thankful for just being able to compete. By the end of the year, I was surprised we got to have a meet to end the season but I’m very glad we did.”
Going back to her first days in the pool, Williams remembers watching her older sister learn from Giants assistant coach Terry Layman and shortly after she was in the pool following in her footsteps.
“If Megan was in the pool, Hannah and I would be there with my mom with our little life jackets on and as the years went on, we got into lessons too and we got to learn from the best.”
Swimming competitively since about the sixth grade, Williams has seen the Giants rise to the top of Section 7A over the last few years and says watching the entire program succeed is the greatest feeling.
“It’s really good to hear your name first or hear your teammates name first. Seeing each other do well in race sand at meets, it’s really just the best feeling ever.”
Winning individual titles in the backstroke and the individual medley, Williams says she was drawn to each event for different reasons. For the backstroke, wanting to emulate her sister was a strong motivator.
“I’ve always been a backstroker since my sister was one and I’ve just always wanted to race like her. She’s helped me a lot with it throughout the years and she’s always pushing me to swim faster.”
For the IM, Williams didn’t pick up the event until the previous year where she only swam it twice before sections. She ultimately finished fourth there last year before winning the section title this year.
“I love swimming every stroke so the IM was perfect. I swam it twice last year and after I finished the season swimming it well, [coach] Johnny [Isaacson] decided I was swimming it this year. I enjoy it because it’s different every time going from stroke to stroke.”
Isaacson says Williams success can partially be attributed to having the perfect support system around her, coming from her teammates, coaches and her family.
“This team is really close,” Isaacson said. “We’ve got a lot of hard workers and she’s certainly one of them. Her older system pushed her and she’s breaking her records now. Everyone around her wants to do really well but she also has just a knack for swimming that many don’t.”
Isaacson said William’s proprioception or “feel for the water” can carry her further than most.
“She just looks great when she’s in the water. When she swims, it looks like she’s not working very hard but she most certainly is. She just looks so smooth in the water and does things efficiently and effectively no matter what she swims.”
Williams herself had to give credit to the coaching staff for building a strong team year after year.
“Ms. Layman is the one that taught us all when we were little and ‘Jonny I’ [Isaacson] leads us after that and just makes it all work. All of our coaches are so very important.”
Looking ahead to next year, Williams hopes things will be back to normal. Whether they are or not, she’ll know how to tackle her senior season.
“I’m ready to keep improving and I want to get to where Megan was. I hope things are back to normal next year, but if they aren’t, we’ll all know how to handle it and we’ll all be ready to get better and swim faster.”
Isaacson believes Williams will be ready to lead the team in her senior season.
“Her class has really been the heart and soul for our team the last three years we’ve won the section title. Our seniors this year are our captains but really the leadership is shared among all of the older kids. They all do their part and they do it in a very positive way, and I know Emma will continue to lead our team next year.”
Williams knows she can swim faster, but she’ll be sure to set the right expectations for herself and take it from there.
“I just go for what I want. I set my own goals and try to get my best times. I still have some work to do but I can’t wait to get even faster next year.”
The 2020 All-Iron Range Girls’ Swim Team includes Williams and the following:
Mesabi East: Kylie Meyer (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 100 breaststroke), Lydia Skelton (200 medley relay, 200 individual medley, 400 freestyle relay), Adrianna Sheets (200 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay), Kailey Fossell (1 meter diving, 200 freestyle relay), Kyra Skelton (200 freestyle relay), Adrianna Lehmkuhl (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Siiri Hakala (100 backstroke).
Hibbing: Geli Stenson (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Emery Maki (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Macie Emerson (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Madison St. George (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay).
Eveleth-Gilbert: Ellie Jankila (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle)
Virginia: Lauryn Devich (100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke), Helen Phenning (1 meter diving)
Grand Rapids: Sophia Verke (200 medley relay, 100 backstroke), Emma Hernesman (200 medley relay), Rowan Krueger-Barth (200 medley relay, 100 butterfly, 400 freestyle relay), Alyssa Jackson (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay), Elsa Viren (200 freestyle, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Addie Albrecht (1 meter diving), Jaci Fothergill (1 meter diving), Hannah Rauzi (100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Chloe Peterson (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay).