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As a top swimmer and gymnast, Mitchell's Emerson Smith navigates busy schedule

Feb. 7—MITCHELL — Emerson Smith probably could use a secretary.

Her schedule is that busy.

More often than not, she's starting her day in the pool at 5 a.m. A couple of times a week, she's in the gymnastics gym for practice and frequently she's back in the pool for more swimming training. Add on duties as a student at Mitchell High School, the junior has a full plate.

It's one thing to be that busy. It's another to be good at both gymnastics and swimming at the same time.

"It's definitely a lot," Smith concedes, with a laugh. "I'm probably rushed through the day more than most kids my age."

For swimmers like Smith, with indoor and outdoor seasons and the training time in the pool, doesn't really have an offseason. She competes competitively with the Sioux Falls Swim Team, making trips to Sioux Falls nearly every day. In gymnastics, as an event specialist, she practices two days a week with the Kernels team.

"She's really good at both," Mitchell gymnastics coach Audra Rew said. "Having fun at gymnastics can help with her stress that she is under with swimming, because that's her collegiate-type sport. I think it's fun for her because gymnastics is her social sport; she has the team element. She can come here, enjoy the sport and be with her friends and get a lot of out of gymnastics."

"Audra is a very flexible coach and she's understanding to let me try to do the two sports at one time," Smith added.

Earlier this winter, Smith qualified for the USA Swimming Junior Futures competition, which is the next step above the Sectionals meet and on the way to reaching the Junior Nationals. She qualified in her top event, the 100 backstroke.

"It's a stroke that has clicked for me," Smith said. "It really worked for me since I was in the eighth grade and I've continued to improve with it. My sectional and future cuts, it's always been getting that with the backstroke first."

On the gymnastics front, Smith is in the top-10 in Class AA in floor exercise top scores this season, posting a 9.575 in December, allowing her to qualify for the state individual competition on Saturday.

"Floor has always been my favorite event, and when I decided I was going to be an event specialist, I decided to stick with floor," Smith said. "I've always enjoyed tumbling and that sort of thing, so that's been a good way to compete and stay with the sport."

"She used to do all-around, and we've got it down to what's your best and your favorite because she's training with swimming five days a week," Rew said. "The workouts she does are amazing, and I don't really know how she does it all."

Rew said she just wants all of her athletes to chase their dreams, even if it's in something other than gymnastics.

"I've always said that if you have goals of accomplishing something, even if it's outside of gymnastics, I want to help you succeed," Rew said. "Even if that's providing advice on looking at colleges or being recruited or managing your time, those are tough things to balance at the high school level and they can be stressful."

Both sports have championships coming up, with high school gymnastics capping its season this weekend in Pierre. The 13-and-over A championship is Feb. 29 to March 3 in Watertown, where Smith will be in the running for state titles.

She enjoys the balancing act, even if it keeps her busy.

"I just really like to compete and do both while I still can," Smith said. "It's hard work but it's rewarding, too."