Karl Schwarzkopf’s final high school swimming season was expected to mirror his previous three seasons, with a section title and a trip to the boys’ swimming and diving state meet.
The Minneapolis Southwest senior met those expectations by winning the 100-yard backstroke and finishing second in the 50 freestyle at the Class 2A, Section 2 meet.
But the season wasn’t without moments of anxiety and doubt for Schwarzkopf.
Schwarzkopf missed the first seven weeks because of a spinal stress fracture. After returning to the pool, it took some time to regain his form.
“He was told to rest — no activity — for seven weeks,” Minneapolis Southwest coach Chris Aarseth said. “His first couple of meets back, he wasn’t happy with his times. He might have had some doubts. But knowing Karl, with his heart and desire, he didn’t look at it as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to persevere.”
Last Friday, Schwarzkopf, who finished third in the 100 backstroke at last year’s Class 2A meet, earned his fourth section title by winning the 100 backstroke in a section meet-record time of 52.44 seconds. In the 50 freestyle, he finished second, .07 behind the section meet-record time of 21.46 by Eagan’s Sam Zenner.
“There definitely were some times when some of those [doubts] popped into my head,” Schwarzkopf said. “But the support I got from my coaches and teammates helped me deviate from that mind-set. My teammates’ improvement motivated me to improve.”
Aarseth said, “We talked about [focusing] on the journey, the process. He had a positive mental attitude and a teammate who pushed him.”
The teammate, Peter Lefebvre, and Schwarzkopf have been teammates since joining the Southwest program as seventh-graders.
“We’ve always had a great, friendly rivalry,” Schwarzkopf said, “in and out of the water. I was glad when I was able to get back to training with him.”
Aarseth said Schwarzkopf and Lefebvre, who qualified for the state meet in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle, “push each other daily. They are the best of friends. They are competitive in the pool and the classroom.”
Schwarzkopf has been recommended for admission to the U.S. Naval Academy by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken.
Schwarzkopf is the highest returning Class 2A medalist in the 100 backstroke. His qualifying time (52.44) is third behind Wayzata’s Cort Hanson (51.44) and Rochester John Marshall’s Michael Streyle (51.22). Schwarzkopf has the 10th best qualifying time in the 50 free.
“I feel good about the section meet,” Schwarzkopf said. “I was happy to see the results. The whole team did well. It will be exciting seeing what happens this week.”