As a swim coach at Robin Meadows Community Pool, Laurie Szukalski encounters many young swimmers who are very receptive to coaching. Getting the swimmers to transfer the direction Szukalski provides into the pool, however, often becomes a challenge.
“For little kids, sometimes they get it, but they can’t make their body do it,” said Szukalski, who also coaches Tuscarora’s girls swim team.
Szukalski couldn’t recall Sophia Routzahn ever having any such issues at Robin Meadows, even at the age of 6. It certainly helped that Routzahn could soak in some knowledge from her three older sisters, Samantha, Rebekah and Alexis. But the younger Routzahn had a certain natural ability that stood out.
“She caught on quickly, she was able to understand what you told her to do, and she was able to make her body do that,” Szukalski said of Routzahn, who as a freshman at Tuscarora already holds three school records. “She was good from the beginning, and she was always a hard worker.”
From the first time she entered a pool, Routzahn always felt a certain comfort level she attributes to her success.
“It came natural to me when I was in the water,” Routzahn said. “I would say it’s like my second home … I’m always there.”
Routzahn is part of a talented 12-member freshman class that, combined with an experienced group of eight seniors, gives the Titans a strong chance to capture a title at the Frederick County swimming championships, which take place Feb. 9. In dual meet competition so far this year, Tuscarora sports a 6-0 record.
Routzahn holds records in the 200-yard individual medley, 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke. Szukalski feels just as comfortable having her swim the 100 butterfly and freestyle events, and the Tuscarora coach said several others on the team can excel in multiple events.
“They’re so versatile, I feel comfortable moving them around at so many different events at different meets,” Szukalski said.
That goes for other freshmen such as three of Routzahn’s longtime summer league teammates in twins Harper and Quinn Bumgardner, and Laura Mancinelli. The same can be said for seniors such as Emily Lutz and Rachel Gibson, who have experience swimming at the state meet, and sophomore Norah Jarrahi — an integral part of the Titans’ relays.
Routzahn said the senior class made the newcomers on the team feel at ease.
“I felt that right when I got on the team, they were welcoming me in, and it felt very natural,” Routzahn said.
Lutz previously held the Titans’ 200 IM and 100 breaststroke records. She and the other seniors on the team may have been just as excited as Routzahn when the freshman set her three records. Routzahn swam the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.15 but believes she can go well under that mark, having clocked in at 1:04.51 last March to the win the age 13-14 title at the USA Swimming Maryland state championships.
“Before the race, they were all like, ‘You got this, Sophia,’” Routzahn said. “They were rooting for me to break the record, which I thought was really nice.
“Once I broke it, everyone was congratulating me, giving me high-fives. They were so happy.”
The Titans may be just as happy at the end of the county meet, but they figure on having some stiff competition.
“I feel like we have a lot of depth on the team,” Routzahn said. “It’s going to be a push between Oakdale, Linganore and us. It’s going to be really exciting.”