It’s not how your start but how you finish. Just ask Marquette’s Lexi Basler.
Basler signed to swim in college at Drury University. However, when she began swimming for the Mustangs, there was little thought of getting an athletic scholarship.
“Lexi’s older sister Karli also swam for me, and was somewhat of a phenomenon in the world of swimming,” Marquette coach Joe Schoedel said. “She went from my slowest lane her freshman year, and barely making the team, to scoring at state by her junior year. I was hoping that Lexi would follow in Karli’s footsteps.”
And she did.
“Lexi was very flexible as a freshman,” Schoedel said. “She practiced in our slowest lane, but made huge improvements throughout the year. ”
“I decided to try out for the swim team as a freshman because it was a sport I had grown up doing and liked everything about. Also because my older sister, Karli, was a part of the team and loved and enjoyed every aspects of it from the team and girls down to the coaches,” Basler said. “My swimming background before high school was not very extensive.
“Every since I was little I had swam for my neighborhood swim team and that was about it. My parents started both my sister and I [sic] in the water when we were young, so it was a sport I grew up doing. I never swam club or for a higher level team.”
Schoedel liked what he saw in Basler when she joined the program.
“I saw that she had the physical attributes, mainly her height, to be something special,” Schoedel said. “While siblings can be extremely different in terms of athleticism and work ethic, I’m lucky that Lexi was just like her sister.
“As a freshman, she was willing to do any event, and ended up swimming breaststroke for us at conference. She really spent the first couple of years finding where she fit on a team that is a top-four, state team.”
Basler was pleased with how it started for her in the program.
“Looking back on it now, I would say that as a freshman I did well for just coming in,” Basler said. “I didn’t really have any expectations but I definitely reached goals that I didn’t think would have been possible at the beginning.
“A big highlight was being chosen as an alternate for the state team. I knew that not many freshmen get this opportunity, so to hear that I was chosen to be apart of the state team was a special moment for me.”
Still, Basler did not dedicate herself totally to swimming.
For the first couple of years, Schoedel said Basler “enjoyed swimming,” but also did other sports like lacrosse. After her sophomore year, she saw the potential she had in the pool and decided to focus solely on swimming.
“After sophomore year I realized that if I wanted to be faster and be a top competitor I would need to put in the work outside of the season to be ready,” Basler said.
That’s because her second year was not as good as she would have liked.
“Sophomore year, I would say, would have been my worst year because after freshman year I didn’t do much to prepare for the next year. I came in not at all where I wanted to be and so it took me a while to work my way and speed back up to where it should have been,” Basler said. “I did improve my times, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals and times I had to put in work outside of the season, and so that was when I started going to the gym to work with weights and joined a prep class through Rockwood, so that I was in shape at the start of the season.
“I knew Schoedel had high expectations for me and I didn’t want to let him or myself down. I knew that if I set my mind to it I could accomplish whatever I wanted. I definitely improved my junior year and reached my goals.”
Bassler earned her first state cut in the 50 free and helped break Marquette’s 200-free relay record.
“I never believed that I would be able to break a record at school so I was grateful that I was able to be on that relay with such amazing girls,” Basler said. “After sophomore year, leading into junior year, I realized that since I wasn’t a club swimmer I was going to have to put in the extra work to be where I wanted.”
She never swam on a club team like the Rockwood Swim Club. There was no specific reason for that, Basler said.
“When I was younger I always played multiple sports, so I think at a young age I didn’t see swimming as my No. 1 sport; it was just something to do for fun,” Basler said. “My parents also never pushed me to swim club, which I am grateful for because I think it could have changed my decision regarding college.”
Schoedel challenged her to succeed.
“It was after her sophomore year that I pulled her aside and told her ‘you’re going to be my anchor next year.’ That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone when you know you’re in the hunt for a state title,” Schoedel said. “I challenged Lexi to increase her dryland workouts during the offseason, which she did.
“She steadily dropped [her times] throughout her junior year as well, getting her first individual state cut in the 50, and anchoring our 200-medley relay at state. She also was part of a record-breaking 200-free relay, which included Amanda Yu [a freshman at the time] and Alyssa Lemon and Katiana Porporis, who both went on to swim at Arkansas.”
Schoedel believed Basler turned the corner and made herself in a solid competitor in her junior year at the conference meet.
“[She] competed at a top level against some of the top club swimmers in the area,” Schoedel said. “For years, they would ask me ‘who is that?’ as her name wasn’t known in the swimming community due to never swimming for a year-round club.”
Basler came into her senior season ready to showcase herself.
“After junior year, I saw that my outside work had paid off so I continued training in the gym and started swimming a few months before the start of the season,” Basler said. “I also knew that I really had to step up because we had lost a lot of amazing and fast girls the year before. I [also] wanted to be a top competitor so I knew what I had to do before to prepare so that I was ready come Day 1 of tryouts.”
This year was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year for the program, Schoedel said. “But the expectations for our program are always high. Lexi knew that she would have to play an important role if we were to have a successful season after graduating all our top state scorers the year before. The rest of the team did a tremendous job rallying together this year and pushing each other to get better. They finished fifth in the state, which isn’t bad for rebuilding.”
Throughout the regular season, Basler put up better times than she ever had, Schoedel said. She made state cuts, including the 100 free, which she had never gotten before.
“The main highlight [this past season] was just being apart of an amazing team with such amazing girls that continued to prove that we were a team to beat, even after losing some fast girls the year before,” Basler said.
Going into state, Basler said she didn’t have any big expectations.
“I knew that it all depended on how we did in both prelims and finals and that anything could happen,” Basler said. “Of course, I hoped we would place top 4, but with the new split division and knowing that anything could happen, I just focused on my team and making sure everyone was ready to give it our all.”
She swam the 50 in 24.87 seconds to finish 11th.
“[It] was a personal best for me. Throughout the season, Schoedel and I talked about getting me under 25, and so to do that at state, as one of my last swims, was a special moment for me,” Basler said. “Before the race, I just told myself to go out there and just give it my all, and so looking up at my time after and seeing that I had gone a 24 was a big moment for me.
“I made myself proud and hoped that I made Schoedel proud.”
Indeed. Schoedel was pleased.
“A great finals swim for her. Her prelim time was a little disappointing, but she snuck in and was swimming in an outside lane for finals,” Schoedel said. “I think with the pressure off. She was able to relax and just swim her race. She had a PR [personal record] and moved up spots. All a coach could ask for.”
Basler anchored the 200-medley relay. She turned in a 24.65 leg. It was the third overall fastest leg in the event.
“Before the race, my relay team knew that this was an event where we could place high,” Basler said. “We knew we would have tough competition so we focused and, when it came down to the final swim, I was very pleased with everyone’s swim and our overall place.
“Anchoring a relay is a very stressful situation because it could make or break it for the team, so I really just focused on giving it my all in every single race. ”
Schoedel said having a solid anchor at the back is an “invaluable commodity.”
“It’s a lot of pressure, and Lexi was solid as always,” he said. “Luckily for us, she had been in that role for two seasons now, and in her words: ‘I never really thought about it, it’s what I do.’ ”
Basler also anchored in 200-free relay with a 24.53 leg.
“It was another great swim, and another PR in what was to be her final swim for Marquette,” Schoedel said.”It was a nail-biter of a race, and Lexi was able to hold on to win the consolation heat and finish ninth.”
Setting a personal best in her final swim was something for Basler to remember.
“This relay was my last high school race so I focused on going out and leaving everything I had in the pool,” Basler said. “Having a personal best in that relay made my last race a special one.”
Basler credited Schoedel with helping to make her a successful swimmer.
“Swimming for coach Schoedel was probably the best part of my high school career. I can say 100 percent without a doubt that Schoedel made me a better swimmer,” Basler said. “He never gave up on me and knew from freshman year what I was capable of. He realized my abilities before I did and gave me the strength to keep pushing.
“Schoedel was actually the one who kept pushing me to look at Drury and consider my options, so I am forever grateful and thankful for everything he has done for me. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for him and our recently retired diving coach Lisa Roth. Without those two I would never have realized my full potential and seen that anything is possible with enough hard work.”
It took some doing for Basler to consider Drury.
“When Schoedel first told me that Drury was interested in me, I immediately shot him down and told him that I didn’t want to swim in college,” Basler said. “After realizing that a bigger university maybe wasn’t for me, I began to consider Drury and my options there. After signing, I can say that I am excited for what the next four years hold.”
Schoedel believes she will do well in college swimming
“She is a sweet girl who will work hard and show what she can do.”
So, from the slow lane to being a college athlete, Basler has shown what hard work and good coaching can accomplish.
“I do think this could be considered a success story for someone who doesn’t swim club,” Basler said. “From this I hope girls, and even boys can learn that nothing is ever impossible. If you want something, you have to be willing to put in the hard work. Even if some things don’t come easy to you, never give up.
“If you love it and if it makes you happy then do it for you and nobody else. You have to want it for you. Never did I think I would be going to college to swim, but I can gladly say that anything is possible if you’re willing to work for it.”