Prep Sports

Iowa high school girls' swimming 2020: Area teams, athletes to watch

Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Lauren Williams ready to push herself in the pool

Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Lauren Williams, swimming the 100-yard freestyle during 2017 Cougar Invitational, discovered ju
Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Lauren Williams, swimming the 100-yard freestyle during 2017 Cougar Invitational, discovered just how good she can be last season. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — When Jessica Hinke took over the Cedar Rapids Jefferson girls’ swimming program last season, she noticed something about Lauren Williams.

“Lauren was more of a quiet junior,” Hinke said. “She did her own thing and never complained. She swam very comfortably last year.”

Hinke quickly realized Williams had the ability to do more and pushed her to move out of that “comfort zone.” Williams responded by setting school records in the 100- (a mark that had stood for 25 years) and 200-yard freestyles, capping the season with a 10th-place finish in the 100 free at state.

“It took some coaching and convincing to get her out of her comfort zone enough to change her racing strategy so she could drop the time she needed to break two school records,” Hinke said.

The strong finish to 2019 has Williams understandably excited about her senior season, which is set to open with a home meet Sept. 1 against Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

“The competition at state last year has me very excited to go compete against girls across the state once again,” she said. “I also want to strive to beat my times and take my own records down from the previous year.”

Williams, one of several Cedar Rapids Prairie students competing with the J-Hawks as part of a co-op program, is a quiet leader and a tireless worker.

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“Lauren is humble,” Hinke said. “She’s incredibly talented, but she’s the last person who would tell you about it. She is a leader by example. She is one of the first in the water and works hard to make sure she gets the most out of each workout.

“At the end of last season, the rest of the team saw her (leadership) characteristics and voted her team captain for this year. That is causing her to take a more active role in leadership.”

Williams admits all the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has everybody feeling a sense of the unknown entering the season.

“With it being complicated times, I want the underclassmen to be able to look to us seniors for support whether it be in or out of the pool,” Williams said. “I see myself as leading through my actions and setting an example.

“I’m not sure how this season is going to pan out, but I plan on continuing to push myself and see how far I can go during these last few months. I’m looking forward to encouraging my teammates to push themselves, too. I may be a bit nervous about the outcome of the season, but I know that I have lots of support.”

Williams, who isn’t sure if she will swim in college, also is a member of the Helen G. Nassif YMCA Sharks club team. That allowed her to get regular work in during the summer as pools began to reopen. The J-Hawks began to hold optional virtual workouts on June 1 and Williams was an active participant.

Hinke knows Williams has lofty individual goals, but is quick to point out the focus on team is just as important.

“She has big goals for herself for this swim season, so she will need to work hard on those,” Hinke said. “At the same time, she encourages her teammates to follow her so they can have success, too. Lauren doesn’t have to change anything about her training habits in order to push these girls to do their best.

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“I feel very lucky to be able to coach a swimmer like Lauren. She is coachable and hard working and always looks on the positive side of life, even when things are tough.”

2020 teams to watch

Iowa City High — The Little Hawks lost a number of talented performers from a team that finished eighth at state last year with 114 points. Seniors Rika Yahashiri, Julianne Berry-Stoelzle, Jesse Hausknecht-Brown and junior Grace Champion all made state last year. Coach Zane Hugo will be adding a talent newcomer in junior Heidi Stalkfleet, who only swam for her Iowa Flyers club team during her first two years at City High. “Heidi is an accomplished club swimmer,” Hugo said. “She comes to City High with times that would have finished in the Top 3 in several events at the 2019 state meet.”

Iowa City West — Coach Byron Butler’s team finished fourth behind West Des Moines Dowling, Ames and Ankeny with 184.5 points at last year’s state meet. The Women of Troy return a pair of state champions in senior Aurora Roghair (200 and 500-yard freestyles) and junior Scarlet Martin (200 IM and 100 breaststroke). Six others (Ella Hochstetler, Samantha Klein, Olivia Taeger, Jade Roghair, Jenny Geng and Lauren Trent) also went to state. Freshmen Kolby Reese and Carlee Wilkins have state-scoring potential. “We should have a deep team,” Butler said. “Austyn Goodale and Lily Ernst were our graduates who scored points at state. Kolby should be able to outscore them at state, hopefully. If everyone else improves a little, we should be pretty solid.”

Linn-Mar — The Lions finished 12th at state last year with 67 points, most coming from sophomore Hayley Kimmel, who was a state runner-up in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. Senior Reece Miller finished 16th at state in diving. Ella Wager, Lilly Weber, Lily Haars and Corrin Williams also made it to state. “We should have lots of depth this season,” said third-year Linn-Mar Coach Bobby Kelley. “We have good leadership with our senior and junior classes and an exciting group of freshmen and sophomores.”

2020 swimmers and divers to watch

Samantha Klein, jr., Iowa City West — Finished eighth in one-meter diving at state last year (402.65).

Hayley Kimmel, soph., Linn-Mar — Finished second in 200 IM (2:03.03) and second in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.68) at state.

Scarlet Martin, jr., Iowa City West — Won the 200 IM (2:02.56) and the 100 butterfly (53.41) at state.

Audrey Repko, jr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy — Finished eighth in the 500 free (5:09.51) at state.

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Aurora Roghair, sr., Iowa City West — Won the 200 free (1:48.85) and 500 free (4:50.87) at state.

Lauren Williams, sr., Cedar Rapids Jefferson — Finished 10th in the 100 free (53.90) at state.

Rika Yahashiri, sr., Iowa City High — Versatile performer on the relays and state qualifier in four events last year for Little Hawks.

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