by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
If she had not grown tall, and if she had not been a twin, Allison Schwab might have been a good gymnast, rather than swimmer, for Elk River.
“I was in gymnastics at first, but I was getting a little tall,” giggled the 5-foot-11 Schwab on Monday, while starting practice for her fifth state swimming meet. “Then my brother and Courtney talked me into swimming. I was going to all the meets anyway (to watch).”
In seventh grade, Ali joined twin brother Aaron and his swimming pal Courtney Grunewald. They have been the three musketeers of Elk swimming ever since, starring for the Elks and car-pooling to various clubs to keep swimming the rest of the year.
“Loved it right away. I love being in the water,” said Schwab, “and it was great being in a sport with my brother.”
She had intended to convert her gymnastic skills into diving, but found knifing through the water to be thrilling, especially in breaststroke and 50 freestyle, her best events. Besides, divers need to be little, too, and height is a big plus in swimming.
“It really helps to be tall, and Ali has lots of natural ability,” said coach Colleen Killpatrick, “but like with any really good swimmer, she has a great work ethic, too. She has gotten better every year. This year she really stepped up her training in the breaststroke.”
Schwab has scored points at state eight times previously. She has placed eighth, 16th and 11th in breaststroke, 15th in 50 free, 13th in 200 free relay, and 10th, 15th and 16th in medley relay.
At sectionals last weekend, Schwab had a stellar home-pool finale, earning golds in 50 free, medley relay and 200 free relays, plus silver in breaststroke. That gives her six career section golds, the others in breaststroke (twice) and medley relay.
She also added her name to the Elk record board in the two relays. Her 1:06.75 breaststroke (in state prelims last year) was already on the board.
“My goals this year were to make state in all my events, get new records on the board, and have fun with the season, just take it all in, my last year,” said Schwab, who has certainly met those goals.
Her career highlights with the Elks are “making finals in ninth grade (in breaststroke) and the first time we won the medley relay at section two years ago.” Schwab hopes to update that list with a medal or two at the state today.
Asked why she settled on the breaststroke and 50, she said those came most naturally to her. “When I do the backstroke, I get water in my nose and freak out,” she laughed. “I like being on my stomach a lot better. I don’t do the long races very well because I always take it too fast. So I’m better off in the shorter races.”
Her club swimming highlight was qualifying for Grand Prix Nationals in Texas two years ago by making the cut with her 50 and breaststroke times.
“We got to swim with the Olympians. I actually bumped into Michael Phelps, and Courtney was right behind me and caught me because I was so scared I didn’t know what to do! I got my picture taken with Ryan Lochte.”
Schwab will take two weeks off, then get back in the water with Sea Devils club. This week she decided on her next team, too, committing to North Dakota.
THE SCHWAB SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents, Scott and Wendy; brother, Aaron, 17 … Sport: swimming … Other activities: National Honor Society, LINK, Serve …. Academics: 3.69 GPA … College: North Dakota; engineering; swimming
Favorite stuff — Class: any math … TV shows: “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Office” … Movies: “Comedies, anything that makes me laugh.” … Reading: Nicholas Sparks romance novels …. Food: tacos, especially chicken with hard shell …. Drink: chocolate milk … Music: rap (“before I swim”) and country, especially Chris Brown, Jason Aldean … Team: Packers …. Athlete: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte … Kickback: roller blading, deer hunting with dad … Wants to visit: Hawaii