When Peninsula swim coach Tim Messersmith sees sophomore swimmer Emma Keith before a big race, he sees a swimmer who is nothing short of completely locked in.
“She’s laser focused, which I what I want to see,” Messersmith said. “I want her focused on the race and what she’s supposed to do — not about a boyfriend, or what dad thinks, or what mom thinks, or what I think. She’s just focused on her race.”
That type of intensity — combined with a swimming background with the Tacoma Swim Club — is what has made Keith, just a sophomore, one of the team’s top swimmers. Keith is close to posting state-qualifying times in the 100-yard breaststroke and has a shot of qualifying in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, also.
“I’m just getting stronger and faster and having fun with my teammates,” Keith said. “That’s all that matters. It’s been really fun. I feel like I’m getting a lot stronger with weight lifting.”
Messersmith, who was an assistant coach the past two years under longtime coach Craig Brown, sees Keith as an example for his younger swimmers.
“She’s got a really good work ethic,” Messersmith said. “She works hard every set, every practice. She’s made all but one or two practices, so her attendance is really good. I hope the younger girls see that. Half of my team are freshmen and sophomores. It comes down to hard work and enthusiasm.”
Messersmith said that any pressure that comes along with being a top swimmer as an underclassmen has yet to faze Keith.
“I don’t see it as being a senior, junior, sophomore, freshman thing,” he said. “It’s more, ‘What can you do to contribute to our team?’ It’s about getting our relays qualified. Emma has been swimming club most of her life, so she knows about pressure and swimming in bigger meets, and swimming at King County Aquatic Center. It’s nothing new to her. That experience can really translate.”
Keith said she’s hoping to qualify for state in at least two events, plus a relay. She’ll have some help with the relay. Senior Lissa Racette might be the team’s top swimmer, boasting a wealth of experience and constant improvement over her four years at Peninsula. Racette is close to qualifying for the Class 3A state meet in the 100 butterfly, as well as the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle.
Keith and Racette are also joined at the top by senior Gabby Martin, a Bellarmine Prep student.
“Those are our core three for our relays,” Messersmith said.
Sophomore Ellie Hood is also making some waves for the team, despite recently having reconstructive knee surgery.
“I wasn’t even expecting her to swim at all this year,” Messersmith said. “She’s made some good progress. She’s not quite there yet, but we have another month. We have some strong relays, it’s just a matter of getting them all in the shape at the right time. We kind of break them down and build them back up. Hopefully we can peak at districts.”
If all goes smoothly, Messersmith hopes to see some of his swimmers in the state meet.
“We’re not there yet but we’ll get there,” he said. “That’s my job: To get them there and get them ready for the state meet.”