AURORA — Getting ready to swim the final race of her high school career at the state meet this past November, Mesabi East senior Emma Williams had plenty of emotions running through her head.
The 2021 Section 7A 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley champion wanted to make her senior year a successful one. And while there was a little more pressure compared to other years, Williams feels like she reached her goals and performed well on the state’s biggest stage.
Williams ended her career ninth at state in the 100 backstroke and was part of the 10th place 200 medley relay team for the Giants, the best a relay team has ever finished for Mesabi East.
For her standout high school career as well as strong finishes at the state meet, Emma Williams has been named the All-Iron Range Girls’ Swimmer of the Year by the Mesabi Tribune and the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
Getting into starting position for her final backstroke race of her high school career, Williams said it was a difficult moment to process before the race and she still had plenty of thoughts racing in her mind after she finished.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” Williams said. “I’m glad it’s over so I can continue on with my life but I’m sad because it was such a big part of my life and I don’t want to let it go. But it was fun. There’s so many memories that go with swimming that I’ll be happy to look back on.”
On her career as a whole, Williams says she’s happy with the times she’s seen come across the scoreboard, but she’s more pleased with how swimming as a whole has made her a better person.
“It’s helped me through a lot. I think the hard work and the work ethic you need for it is something I’m thankful to have. I’m always working hard and pushing myself and knowing you have the ability to push yourself has motivated me in so many other ways.”
Giants head coach Jon Isaacson said it was the most rewarding feeling to see Williams finish her swim career at the state meet.
“Seeing her and the rest of the qualifiers we had down there down at state was really something to see. Finishing ninth in the backstroke and 10th in that really strong relay team, that was a really good way for her to end her high school career.”
One of the team’s five seniors, Isaacson said Williams is a great example of a model leader for a swim team.
“She led our practices and was just a tremendous practice swimmer that everyone else tried to stay close to. She was a consistent leader for us all season long. She’s a real positive person and just the most supportive teammate you could want in the pool.”
With the state meet not being held in 2020, Williams said it’s return in 2021 made her senior season all the more important to her.
“It wasn’t exactly stressful,” Williams said. “But it did put a little bit more pressure back on with it being my last year. It’s the last time you get to do any of this. It made me work harder and push myself one last time.”
One of many excellent backstrokers in Mesabi East history, Williams said countless hours went into the event over the years, especially with her older sister Megan who graduated in 2019.
“It’s just something I’ve done for a long time. I just kept going with it and got better and better. Working extra after practice, working on technique and watching videos. I really put a lot of work into it.”
Her coach agreed.
“She could learn from her sister,” Isaacson said. “She had that example to follow and she really knew how to swim the stroke well. She started well and she knew how to turn which is really key for a backstroke. Emma has all of that and does it all while making it look effortless.”
The section champion in the IM as well, Williams says she likes the variety that comes with swimming all four strokes in one race.
“I know I don’t have to be the best at every stroke but I can keep going and improve at each one along the way. I like the IM because it’s always changing and making you do different things and that makes it fun.”
Of the 200 medley relay team, Williams says competing with fellow seniors Siiri Hakala and Kylie Meyer, along with junior Adrianna Sheets, just felt right as the quartet came together for the Giants best relay finish in school history.
“We’re like a family. We work so well together just to go fast. It’s not a one-person deal. Everyone does their part and it’s great that we can come together to make something like that happen.”
An academic all-state selection and soon to be an academic all-American selection, Williams plans to focus on exercise rehabilitation in college, studying something like physical therapy or occupational therapy. Whether or not she’ll continue swimming competitively is still up in the air.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to swim yet. I’m still deciding between a few schools and one of them has a swim team but I’m not totally decided on that.”
Her coach says Williams would fit in well on a Division II or III three school should she choose to pursue swimming further.
“She knows she has the option and I think she can be successful at that next level should she choose to go there. Any Division III team would definitely be happy to have her and she’d be welcomed on a Division II team as well.”
On her success, Williams wanted to thank her coaches and her teammates for getting her this far.
“The coaches have helped us all. Coach ‘Jonny-I’ is just the best and we wouldn’t be here without him and the other coaches on the team. I’m definitely going to miss the team. We’re like a family, my seniors and co-captains especially. I’m going to miss them all.”
Closing this chapter, Williams is satisfied with what she’s done.
“I’m very glad I got to where I did. I made it this far and did this well and there’s a lot to look back on. Hopefully everyone else on the team keeps pushing and working hard. I know it’ll pay off for them in the end if they do.”
In addition to Williams, the All-Iron Range Girls’ Swimming Team includes: Siiri Hakala (200 medley relay), Kylie Meyer (200 medley relay, 100 breaststroke) and Adrianna Sheets (200 medley relay) of Mesabi East; Geli Stenson (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Macie Emerson (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Madison St. George (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay) and Emery Maki (200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay) of Hibbing and Sophia Verke (200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 400 freestyle relay), Hannah Rauzi (200 medley relay, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 100 breaststroke), Rowan Krueger-Barth (200 medley relay, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle relay), Emily Ericson (200 medley relay, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle relay), Alyssa Jackson (200 IM, 400 freestyle relay), Chloe Peterson (100 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay), Nevaeh Hoard (100 freestyle) and Allison Fox (400 freestyle relay) of Grand Rapids
The Mesabi Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald-Review will also name an All-Iron Range Girls’ Diver of the Year in the near future.