The St. Olaf swimming and diving teams competed this past weekend in Minneapolis for the MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships. The Oles finished third when the three-day contest concluded, thanks in large part to the strong efforts by John Loepfe ’20, who finished second in the 200 individual medley race, his first finals swim, with a time of 1:53.68. Loepfe went on to win the 100 meter back stroke with a time of 49.48, faster than even the 2016 NCAA qualifying time, and followed that performance with a victory in the 200 back the next day, posting a time of 1:49.44. These races were the culmination of a breakout first season by Loepfe, who consistently posted top three placings throughout all his races this season. His strong efforts throughout his first year as an Ole instill optimism both for his future as an individual swimmer, and for the immediate success of the St. Olaf swim team. If he continues to build and improve on his early success, Loepfe will be one of the conference’s premiere swimmers as soon as next winter.
Q: What’s your mentality heading into a race? Are there any pre-race rituals or mental exercises you do to help relax or motivate yourself?
A: When I was younger, I was always super anxious before races, but since I came to St. Olaf, I’ve learned to just be calm before races, not think too much and just let my body do the work. Behind the blocks I usually do arm swings and other little exercises to keep my body loose and get rid of nervous energy. During the race, I really don’t think of much besides where I am in the pool and how fast my arms and legs are supposed to be going.
Q: Who is your biggest role model and what lessons have you learned from them to improve both as a person and an athlete?
A: My biggest role model growing up was my coach, Jon Brenner. He really just taught me how to be a good person in and out of the pool, and helped nurture my love for swimming. One of his biggest lessons was the importance of having a team, which I have really found here at St. Olaf. He passed away from brain cancer in 2010, so I’ve been trying to keep him in my mind whenever I swim.
Q: What was the highlight of your season so far, both individually and as a team? What made that moment so special?
A: The highlight of the season for the team, in my opinion, was the entire Florida winter break training trip. It was a special week because we were all together, struggling through insane practices, but also spending time together and making memories. My individual highlight was at MIAC championships when I was walking up to the podium and I saw the entire team come over to start cheering. It reminded me how much support there is between every teammate, and how it’s truly like a second family.