by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
First of all, he’s tall and lanky. That’s a plus in swimming. Aaron Schwab is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, broad-shouldered, long-limbed and loose-jointed. You could pick him out of a crowd as a swimmer. “When you’re tall, you’ve got less distance to travel, and your strokes are longer,” his coach Denise Eidem explains.
Plus, he works feverishly at swimming (along with everything else he undertakes) year-round, making sure he’s primed and proficient in every stroke. He’s also smart as a whip, in line to be valedictorian. All of which adds up to one of the best individual careers in a strong Elk River program.
Schwab, nearing the end of a six-year varsity tenure, has made state four times, the last two years in four events each, and placed as high as ninth three times. He holds Elk records in the 200 individual medley (1:57.94) and 100 backstroke (53.66), both set at state last year, and the 400 freestyle relay. He’s got five section golds: two in back, two IM, one 400FR.
Remarkably, Eidem points out, his name appears in Elk all-time top-10 lists in every swim event.
“Aaron works hard, he sets goals, he loves challenges and he’s always focused,” said Eidem, asked what makes him good besides the luxury of his length. “For instance, his weakest stroke was breaststroke, so between 10th and 11th grades, in his club, he worked hard to improve breaststroke, which has improved his individual medley times.”
It also helps if you love swimming. Schwab has been churning out 20 to 30 miles a week about 48 weeks per year for as long as he can remember. He started at age 9 with the local Jet Stream club along with classmate Courtney Grunewald. They lured Aaron’s twin Allison into the fold two years later. The inseparable threesome has pushed each other ever since, moving on to Edina Gators and now St. Michael Sea Devils for year-round swimming, while becoming Elk stars.
Schwab, a one-sport athlete, admits it “takes a special kind of person” to put up with staring at the line in the bottom of the pool for countless hours of workouts but the positives are many. “You form a lot of friendships in the pool. There’s a lot of bonding. And I really like to race. And don’t like to lose.”
Schwab’s lone regret so far is one he’s determined to fix later this month. At state meets in backstroke the last four years and IM the last three, and 400 relay the last two, he hasn’t made the top eight yet, picking ninth-place points by winning the consolation heat in backstroke twice and I.M. once.
“My goal this year is to make top eight in both my events and top four in one of them,” said Schwab, who’s been following the times of his rivals through their local papers online, and knows he’s in the running. “That’s been my goal since seventh grade and I’ve just missed all-state three times.”
He’s nabbed a couple of big prizes with the Gators club, though: a state title and fifth-place at nationals in the 400 freestyle relay in 2011.
Away from the pool, Schwab has a 4.159 GPA and hopes to be a pediatric surgeon. He has one health issue he works around: he can’t eat anything with wheat, rye, barley or oats because his body can’t process gluten. He has a flair for art, capturing a Gold Key for ceramics in the Minnesota Scholastic Arts Awards last month. He earned his school’s nominations for the ExCELL award last year (and got the regional honor, too) and the Triple-A award this year.
THE SCHWAB SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18…. Family: parents, Scott and Wendy; twin sister, Allison … Sport: swimming …. Other activities: National Honor Society, Spanish Club, TIES, SERVE … Academics: 4.159 GPA … College plans: undecided where; pre-med, possibly swimming
Favorite stuff — Class: English, especially composition and literature … TV show: “How I Met Your Mother” … Movie: “Pan’s Labyrinth” … Reading: “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, Stephen King horror novels, Splash magazine (swimming) … Food: “Gluten-free pizza when I can find it,” and ice cream and Peach Rings candy … Teams: Packers (dad’s team), Broncos (grandpa’s team) …. Athlete: Jason Lezak … Kickback activities: going to movies, playing board games (especially Quels and Scrabble) with friends … Would like to visit: Sweden