24 Hawkeyes to Watch: Emma Sougstad

Dec. 27, 2015

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, July 29, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2015-16 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Emma Sougstad spent hours commuting to Mason City, Iowa, from her home in Forest City so she could participate in high school swimming. While her little blue car made the 80-mile daily commute, she was evolving into one of the most sought-after recruits in the state.

There are plenty of reasons Sougstad chose to continue her career at the University of Iowa. A transparent nudge by her parents — involving that same blue car — let Sougstad know what mom and dad thought of her recruiting suitors.



“The trigger was when my parents put a bumper sticker and Hawkeye floor mats (on and in my car) before I even made the decision,” Sougstad said.

The bumper sticker remains on the car.

“But I did get a new car and I put the floor mats in the new car,” Sougstad said.

The 10-time high school All-American chose the Hawkeyes over Minnesota, Texas Christian, Kansas, and Kentucky, making her parents — and UI coaches — happy.

“My teammates have been such a support system and they are my family. They push me to be the best version of myself, to be a leader, to get the best grades I can, and to be the best person.”
UI junior Emma Sougstad


Hawkeye head coach Marc Long was impressed with Sougstad’s determination to shuttle to Mason City to train. He liked her competitive drive shown in other sports like track, basketball, and volleyball. And he liked the fact that by Division I collegiate swimming standards, she was still raw.

“We want to make sure that competitive desire comes through in the pool as well,” Long said. “When we line her up and she’s ready to race, she’s tough to beat. We’re excited to keep putting her in those situations and letting that athletic ability come out. She has a bright future because she is a dedicated, competitive, and great athlete.”

Sougstad began setting UI records during her first season on campus. Although she just missed advancing to the NCAA Championships as a freshman, Sougstad qualified in three events as a sophomore. She finished 18th in the 100 breaststroke (59.96), 29th in the 200 breast (2:11.20), and 42nd in the 200 IM (1:59.12).

Sougstad holds nine school records and showed no signs of slowing at the Hawkeye Invitational from Dec. 4-6 in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. She led off the winning 200-yard freestyle relay, won the 200 IM (1:59.25, 1:59.05 in preliminary), and 100 breaststroke (1:00.23), swam the second leg on the victorious 200 and 400 medley relays and the 400 freestyle relay, placed second in the 50-yard freestyle (22.91), and was third in the 200 breaststroke (2:15.29, 2:13.26 in preliminary).

“I don’t set goals, I go out there and race and see what happens,” Sougstad said. “I have no expectations, I just go out and race the cap next to me. I am blessed with what I have accomplished and it is a gift. But accepting that gift and working hard for it is what I believe in.”

It has been that way for Sougstad since she began swimming at the age of 5, following two older brothers into the club swimming scene.

“I developed a passion for swimming throughout the years,” Sougstad said. “I like the thrill of diving into the water and having a race, seeing where I can go from there. I appreciate all the people I have met throughout the years. My teammates now push me every day inside and outside the pool.”

Sougstad was raised among a family of Hawkeye fans, but in an act of early defiance, she proclaimed herself to be an admirer of rival Iowa State.

“I wanted to be the rebellious child, but I turned out OK,” Sougstad said.

Eleven times during high school, Sougstad was named first-team all-state; she set seven Mason City school records. As a senior at the 2012 Iowa State Championships, Sougstad won the 200 IM and 100 fly, and led off the 200 and 400 free relays. The Mohawks placed fourth in the 400 free relay and fifth in the 200 free relay. She still holds the state record in the 200 IM (2:00.33).

“She was a hard-working high school multi-sport athlete from a smaller town and was very determined,” Long said. “We believe in her, she’s a special kid, and she’s contagious with the team.”

Sougstad credits teammates for pushing her and she says her leadership skills have improved as a result.

“My teammates have been such a support system and they are my family,” Sougstad said. “They push me to be the best version of myself, to be a leader, to get the best grades I can, and to be the best person.”

This season a new, improved version of Sougstad could be unveiled. She has altered her lifestyle to include better choices when it comes to eating and sleeping. Early results indicate a much quicker recovery time for her body than in the past.

“It changes my attitude and perspective on the sport of swimming,” Sougstad said. “It is easier because I am treating my body with respect. I’m excited to see what happens this season.”

Complementing her lifestyle changes is becoming more deeply vested in Athletes in Action, an organization that ties faith and sport. Sougstad calls it a “game-changer.”

“It is about getting plugged into a great community that learns how to push themselves in each possible way,” Sougstad said.

The Hawkeyes participate in their Winter Training Trip in St. Petersburg, Florida, from Jan. 3-10. They host Illinois on Jan. 16 beginning at 11 a.m. (CT).