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Bewarder becomes first-ever DL swim champ

Even breaking tradition couldn't stop Detroit Lakes Henrik Bewarder from making history by becoming the school's first-ever state champion in swimming.

Bewarder brought home the gold in the Class 1A 500-yard freestyle event Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, beating the state field with a time of 4:47.47.

And that was even after he broke a state-meet tradition by not wearing a cap during his finals race, instead going with the full hair-do look and feel.

"Henrik raced without a cap and went with a full head of hair, which is taboo for Minnesota swimming," explained DL head coach Mike Daly.

The reason for the cap is to reduce friction through the hair, but that little nugget of information didn't register with Bewarder, who led for the vast majority of the 500 race.

After he leapt in front of the pack with a strong start, several swimmers tried to make a push for the lead, but Bewarder -- who is a foreign exchange student from Germany -- was able to hold off all oncomers.

It was a perfect plan to make some history.

"I knew where I was the entire race," Bewarder said of the 500 win. "A few different guys did come up on my heels, but they always fell back. My last 100 yards, I felt good and by then, I knew no one would be able to catch me. I tried to keep the lead after those first 400 yards."

Bewarder had to overcome a narrow loss in the 200 freestyle, where he was out-touched by Eveleth-Gilbert's Luke Strumbell by .38 of a second, after the Laker led the race for most of the way.

But Bewarder's 200 time of 1:43.26 was a full second drop from his preliminary mark from Friday, which was comforting to him -- and at that point and time, his silver was the highest placement for a Laker swimmer, ever.

"Second place was pretty good in the 200, and I even dropped a second for it," Bewarder said. "I was extremely happy despite leading the race for 175 yards."

Daly pointed out that Strombell was one of the contenders who pushed Bewarder in the 500, but he ran out of gas.

"(Strumbell) did what he had to do to win the 200 and Henrik did what he had to do to win the 500," Daly said. "There wasn't anything more Henrik could have done in the 200."

Bewarder, who has competed on the national level in Germany, where he took fifth, said winning the 500 at state was one of his biggest accomplishments in his swimming career.

"I was unproven here, and I've had some good success (in DL) now," Bewarder said. "I knew when I got here I had to drop some time. But I was surprised how much time I was able to drop in a three month period."

Bewarder never lost a 200 or 500 race during this regular season, and the German tanker also holds numerous records, including four DLHS marks, a section record and a pair of Mid-State Conference records.

"It was exciting breaking records this season, too, because we don't have anything like that in Germany," Bewarder said.

Daly said it doesn't matter if Bewarder isn't a native of DL, either. The Lakers finally have a state champion in swimming.

He joins Ann Schiller (high jump), T.J. Johnson (discus) and Craig Fredrickson (300 hurdles) as DL's state individual champions.

"Everything Henrik did this season was a first," Daly said. "He deserves everything he earned, because he worked so hard. It doesn't matter (if he's a foreign exchange student) because you will still see his name in the DL history books."

Solid showing

overall at state

Bewarder also swam on two relay teams, which each placed 15 and 16 overall. Luke Pechmann also finished 15th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 58.35.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Nathan Buelow, Sam Branstad, Pechmann and Bewarder raced for a 16th place finish with a time of 1:34.45, while the same foursome registered a 3:36.08 in the 400 relay.

Pechmann was disqualified in the 100 backstroke after he had a false start, just another learning moment for the young Laker, who will see plenty of state action, since he's only a sophomore.

"For Sam and Luke, it was a good learning experience," Daly said. "They will both come back to state and swim great next time."

Winning the team Class 1A title was St. Thomas Academy with a score of 324, way ahead of second-place Grand Rapids' 180.

Laker results

Minnesota State High School League Class 1A state swimming and diving meet at University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis, Thursday-Saturday, March 2-4.

DL individual results -- 200 freestyle: 2. Henrik Bewarder 1:43.26...100 butterfly: 15. Luke Pechmann 58.35...500 freestyle: 1. Bewarder 4:47.47...200 freestyle relay: 16. DL (Pechmann, Nathan Buelow, Sam Branstad, Bewarder) 1:34.45...100 backstroke: DNP: Pechman, DQ...400 freestyle relay: 15. DL (Bewarder, Pechmann, Branstad, Buelow) 3:36.08.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.