Tom Roemer is a legend in the pool.
He won eight state championships and had one of the country’s top times in two events during his illustrious career at Bettendorf. He went on to become a 12-time NCAA all-American and Hall of Famer at Iowa.
Four decades after making a name for himself, his daughters, Lauren and Sami, are trying to do the same for the Bulldogs in the same pool.
“There is pressure all the time, but not too much where we can’t handle it,” Sami said. “He loves swimming and talks about it every day. He just wants us to be successful in what we do.”
Lauren, a junior, and Sami, a sophomore, will make their state meet debuts Saturday afternoon at the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA.
Lauren qualified in the 100 freestyle. Sami will swim the 100 backstroke and is expected to lead off Bettendorf’s 200 medley relay.
“Qualifying for state is a big deal, but also having my sister there makes it special,” Lauren said. “We get to share that moment together.”
Tom was a three-time state champion in the backstroke from 1977-79, a two-time winner in the 200 individual medley and led the Bulldogs to a team title in 1978.
He held school marks in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke until Caleb Aman eclipsed them a year ago.
“He doesn’t fail to talk about what he did,” Lauren said. “We know about the records and how they just got broken. He talks about the Big Ten and how he did this when he was younger.
“Swimming is his passion. He just wants his kids to have that same experience.”
With Tom’s guidance, Lauren and Sami gravitated toward swimming early. They went to Splash Landing Aquatic Center and were involved with a couple different swim clubs.
There was pressure but never to the point where Tom forced swimming on them.
“He does a good job of letting his girls be their own swimmers,” Bettendorf coach Mike Ahrens said. “He’s not this Todd Marinovich or Earl Woods parent. He’s competitive, works with them on his own and wants the best for them, but it’s not to the point where it is overbearing.”
Swimming is a popular topic at the dinner table, particularly during the season.
Last year, he had Lauren write down her goal time for the 200 freestyle and put it on all the mirrors she looked at during the day.
“After meets, he’ll tell us what we should improve on,” Sami said. “It may be how to fix this in your start or fix this in your stroke. When we were younger, he’d take us to the (YMCA) and work on stuff with us.”
The competitive juices are still there.
Tom is part of a masters swimming club.
“He still tries to race us and beat our times,” Lauren said.
As for the sisters, they classify themselves as polar opposites.
Lauren is defined as easy-going. Sami is described as feisty and spunky. Lauren has a close group of friends outside of swimming. Sami’s friend group is more associated within the team.
“Knowing Tom, it is cool because you see pieces of his personality in both of those girls,” Ahrens said. “They’re competitive, and they get after each other.
“They don’t swim the same strokes per se, but they want to out-compete the other one and carry their weight in a relay. It is fun to watch them interact because they’re typical sisters.”
Lauren admits there is occasional bickering at practice.
“Sometimes when it gets competitive, it gets out of hand,” Sami said, “but we still can’t live without each other.”
On Bettendorf’s record board in the pool, Lauren’s name is listed as part of a freshman-sophomore school record in the 400 freestyle relay. Sami, though, was on a relay earlier this season that broke that mark.
There is some contention.
“Just scrap that ‘L’ off and put on an ‘S’,” Sami said.
“Technically, my name is the one on the board,” Lauren responds.
"Not for long," Sami answers.
Both have plenty of opportunities to add their name to the board before their careers end.
Sami is aiming for the freshman-sophomore school record in the 100 backstroke Saturday. She was about a second off last week at regionals.
Lauren, who focused more on the 200 freestyle the past two seasons and plans to get back to that next year, shaved two seconds off her season-best 100 free time last Saturday.
They’re hoping to contribute points for Bettendorf, which is vying for a second-place team trophy behind heavy favorite Ames.
“We think we can get second,” Lauren said. “We have one of the biggest groups going that we’ve ever had.”
Ahrens is eager to see how his squad performs given several swimmers didn’t rest, shave or wear fast suits a week ago.
“I think we can fight with Dowling (for second),” he said. “We still have yet to see our best swimming. Hopefully, we can put it all together.
“We swam really well last year. We’ll try and keep that same recipe going and same mindset.”