Swimming: Two transfers helped Elks earn their biggest state delegation

Elk swimmers (from left) Collin Krueger, Friend Bechtel and Aaron Schwab had a combined six first-places at the Section 8AA meet along with one school record and one section record. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Two transfer students who boosted the Elk swim team considerably have joined its holdover star Aaron Schwab as a state entrant after the trio had an outstanding sectional last weekend.


Schwab was named Outstanding Swimmer of the Section 8AA meet in Alexandria as he won the 100 backstroke in the section record time of 54.34 seconds, a personal best, and took the 200 individual medley in 2:02.52.


“I’ve been pushed pretty hard this year in the ‘back’ by that guy,” grinned Schwab, pointing to his new teammate Friend Bechtel.


Bechtel, a senior whose family moved to Zimmerman from Idaho this past year, won the 100 freestyle in 48.94 and place second behind Schwab in the backstroke with 55.07.


“It’s been fun. Aaron has pushed me a ton in the backstroke,” said Bechtel.


Bechtel was a two-time state qualifier in wrestling in Idaho, where swimming is a fall sport. So he had to chose between his two main sports here.


“I have swum for longer, so I decided to stick with swimming,” said Bechtel. “My life revolves around the water.”


Collin Krueger, a junior from Big Lake who transferred last year, won the 200 freestyle in 1:48.50 and the 500 freestyle in a team record 4:56.94.


“I moved over here because we had no swimming program at Big Lake,” said Krueger. “I swam with the Jets (a club based in Elk River) for a while and then I started getting interested in high school athletics.”


Those three and junior Jacob Christy won the 400 freestyle in 3:19.13.


With six first-places, the Elk River-Zimmerman-Spectrum team placed second behind Brainerd in the team standings.


The state Class AA meet will be held Friday (preliminaries) and Saturday (finals) at the University of Minnesota, 6 p.m. each night.


Qualifying for state in six events is a program high, said coach Denise Eidem.


“This will be the biggest group we have brought down to state,” said Eidem, meaning individual event qualifiers. She added, “State is a whole another level. Not that we can’t do it, but we  are going to have to swim really hard on Friday (prelims) make it back on Saturday.”


Schwab in the backstroke is the highest seed, eighth. The top eight in prelims make finals, and the next eight came back for consolation.


The Elks already had five veterans from Zimmerman on the squad — seniors Andy and Casey Lee, Ryan Pokorny and AJ Schlee, and junior Andy Olson — and Eidem figured they helped influence Bechtel to pick swimming over wrestling. The Elks also have a strong wrestling team that placed second in the conference.


“My Zimmerman boys were telling him how much fun we have,” said Eidem, “and how much he would help this team.”


Krueger transferred from BLHS in 10th grade, meaning he had to miss a year of varsity, due to the Minnesota State High School League transfer rules. If you transfer after ninth grade without your family moving, you miss a year.


“So Collin swam JV and exhibition all last year,” said Eidem. “He might have surprised some other teams this year who wonder where he came from, but he paid his dues last year.”


The Elks have been swimming sick all year, but placed second in their conference, true-team section and regular section.


“The season started out really rocky,” said Schwab, “because everyone on the team basically got sick. I wasn’t swimming well and I got really nervous about how I would do. But I am  happy how I did at section and hope to do better at state.”


Said Eidem: “Aaron had the flu the week before last and his dad and sister are sick now so I hope he’ll be OK …. Collin has been sick since Christmas. If he could breathe, he’d be dangerous.”


Krueger broke the team record in the 500 freestyle of  4:57.42 held since 1997 by Ben Nicka. He’s getting close to the 200 record of 1:47.77 held by Pat Stanaway. Meanwhile, Schwab has his eye on the backstroke record of 53.86 held since 1997 by Nate Dittbenner, and the 400 free team is close the the standard of 3:18.53 set in 1998.


“We are hoping for a couple more team records at state,” said Eidem.


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