When the weather got bad, and practice was canceled, most kids would go home and enjoy the rest of the day. Emma and Dylan Schanz’s passion for swimming kept them by the pool.
“If we had a lightning storm or it was too rainy to see the bottom of the pool … we’d be in the little lifeguard station watching videos on training and just talking about different ways to change their strokes and what they could do better,” said Jacy McEvoy, Emma Schanz’s childhood swimming coach.
Junior Emma Schanz said her older brother was the main reason she got into swimming. When Dylan Schanz decided to pick up swimming and join a 12-week summer team in their hometown of Colville, Washington, Emma Schanz said she didn’t hesitate to tag along.
The Schanz duo – who were just 7 and 4 years old when they started swimming – said they quickly fell in love with the sport and with winning.
“Emma and her brother, they were kind of the little stars of the team. They were very curious about learning to swim,” McEvoy said. “They watched all the videos that I gave them. They were just those swimmers that were very interested in learning the correct technique and how to get better.”
Dylan Schanz said one of his favorite memories of swimming with his sister came at a championship meet in Canada as members of the only American team there.
“Our first time ever going to this meet… was kind of funny. I hit my head on the wall in a backstroke race, and (the) same thing kind of happened to her,” Dylan Schanz said. “She ended up still winning her race.”
Dylan Schanz eventually decided to swim year-round, and Emma Schanz, then 13, did too.
Because Colville didn’t have a year-round club team or a high school swim team, the pair was left to train on their own. The two would get workouts sent to them from a coach in Spokane, Washington, but ultimately, they had the final say in what they would do at the pool.
“Usually about 4th or 5th period, we’d get an email with the set,” Dylan Schanz said. “We’d take a look at it and start texting each other about how awful it was going to be.”
McEvoy said that having two amazing swimmers come from the same family is rare, but they bonded over their passion for swimming.
“They made each other better,” McEvoy said. “When one of them didn’t want to get into that water, the other was pushing that other one to get in the water.”
Even though the duo lacked a formal coach, their parents continually encouraged them to train full-time.
Dylan Schanz said that even though his parents were not swimmers, they did what they could to help them train. Their dad would research proper swimming techniques and film their practices to help make corrections to their form.
The pair would swim at an outdoor pool in Colville during the summer. However, during the winter, the only indoor pool that was available in the area was a nonstandard, 20-yard hotel pool at Benny’s Colville Inn.
McEvoy said the hotel pool wasn’t equipped for competitive swimming, so they added lane lines and backstroke flags to make it fit for the siblings to practice.
She added that when the pool was not in operation, they would have to adjust their workouts to dryland exercises around the pool deck.
Emma Schanz was left to train on her own for two years when Dylan Schanz left for college at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.
“It was just really hard showing up to the pool with no one there to tell you what to do or cheer you up,” Emma Schanz said. “But it was definitely a unique experience that taught me so many things that I know a lot of other people didn’t get to gain.”
Emma Schanz said that she had to hold herself accountable and motivate herself to do her workouts at the pool, but the process solidified her dedication to swimming.
McEvoy added that in her 20 years of coaching, she has never seen a teenager with the kind of drive that Emma Schanz has. Her older brother said her dedication is unmatched by most.
“There are people with drive and then there are people like Emma,” Dylan Schanz said. “She knows what she wants to accomplish. … And you know, something that most people wouldn’t have is the ability to actually make that happen.”
Emma Schanz competed at the 2016 Olympic trials in four events during her first year at UCLA. Throughout her career, she has been able to swim against athletes she once looked up to, like Olympian Missy Franklin.
Emma Schanz broke the UCLA record for the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:56:51 at the Texas Invitational in fall. She also posted two personal bests at the recent dual meet against USC. Her 100-yard backstroke came in at 52:97 while her 200-yard breaststroke came in at 2:09:01.
“Each year has gotten better,” Emma Schanz said. “I think I’m way more comfortable and way more confident in my racing.”
Emma Schanz has already been invited to compete at the NCAA championships in March, marking her third time competing at the meet.
In Dylan Schanz’s collegiate swimming career, he was a three-time finalist in the 200-yard breaststroke, 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard individual medley at the 2015 New South Conference Championships. In 2016 and 2017, he placed 8th in the 200-yard breaststroke at the same meet.
McEvoy said that when the Schanz family is together, they are always doing something outdoors like hiking, fishing, mountain biking or swimming.
She added that Emma Schanz still visits her old summer team and gives the young swimmers advice on how to get to where she is at right now. Emma Schanz’s presence and determination to succeed have inspired two girls from Colville to attempt the same path that she created, with the help of her brother and her family.
Emma Schanz said that she attributes her success to the support of her coaches and team, especially with the atmosphere of this year’s team.
“Even if you’re having a bad day, they’re really able to help you, so that’s what I love about the team,” Emma Schanz said. “And that’s what I was missing at the hotel pool.”