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Justin and Joey Schwecke excel on the track and on the field

June 6, 2010
By Michael Gassett — Journal Sports Writer

NEW ULM - Justin and Joey Schwecke aren't your typical twins.

Growing up on a farm between Buffalo Lake and Gibbon, the twins did everything together. They played baseball in the summer, football in fall and basketball in the winter but somewhere along the line, the two went their sperate ways at Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop High School.

And that was probably the best decision for both of them.

Article Photos

Joey Schwecke runs track for the University of Minnesota.

Justin stuck with baseball and after four years at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, he was named the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year, twice.

Joey, on the other hand, went a different route. Following the lead of older brother Tyler, he picked track and that too has paid off.

Joey just finished his third season running the decathlon at the University of Minnesota, where he took fifth in the event at the Big 10 Championships in May.

So how did two twins choose different paths? Both say it all comes down to an experience each had while in middle school.

"I get that asked a lot, I just don't know," Justin said. "I really never liked track. We had a track meet every year at the little parochial school that we went to. I think Joey liked that a lot better. I just like playing baseball so I went that route. He stayed will track."

"We went to private school from kindergarten to eighth grade and we had these little track meets and I enjoyed that," Joey said. "Justin enjoyed baseball more and we kind of went our different ways. We are twins but we aren't a like when it comes to sports. We both like competing, we have that in common but that's it."

The also have successes on their respective playing fields in common as well.

Justin just finished a phenomenal career at Bethany. Not only was he the two-time conference player of the year, but each year he stepped on the field the Vikings improved, including this past year when they finished 29-11 overall and 16-4 in the UMAC, second behind St. Scholastica.

"It was fun. Every year the team just seemed to get better," he said. "Every year the team got a long really good, it was a lot of fun. All four years a blast being on the baseball team. It went way too fast."

Both Justin and Bethany's best season came in 2009. That year, Justin hit .456 with 68 hits, 62 RBIs, 16 doubles and 58 runs scored. He was also, 20-for-22 in stolen bases, showing he can be fast like Joey too.

As a team, the Vikings were 29-10 overall and 17-3 in the UMAC as they finished second to St. Scholastica.

"Everything fell into place I guess," Justin said. "It was a little luck and a lot of hard work."

His senior year, he batted .397 with 60 hits, 44 RBIs and 43 runs scored. And for his career, he finished with a .399 average, 185 hits, 13 home runs, 46 doubles, 149 RBIs and 144 runs scored.

With all the success he had on the Bethany diamond, Justin never expected it when he stepped onto campus.

"I didn't think that I would have that much success," Justin said. "My first year, I was just happy to be on the team. I got some playing time my first year and I just always wanted to get better and improve."

As for being named the UMAC Player of the Year, the award is nice, he just wishes the team would have done better.

"It's nice to have that I guess but I wished we could have won it all as a team," he said. "But it's nice to have awards."

It's obvious that baseball has meant a lot to Justin and the summer before his senior year at Bethany, he was able to experience something not every Division III baseball player does. He took his baseball skills to the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wood bat league on the East Coast. He spent the summer playing for the Kutztown, Pennsylvania Rockies.

"That was really fun," Justin said. "I got to see better competition every day because you saw Division I and Division II players everyday."

His coach at Bethany sent out letters to different wood bat leagues around the country and Kutztown needed an outfielder, so off he went.

"It was kind of exciting to go out there and see a whole new area," he said. "Most of the kids were from the East Coast. My parents came out the second weekend that I had games and my grandma and grandpa came out later in the summer. It was a lot of fun."

For what it's worth, Justin says Joey would have been a pretty good baseball player if he would have stuck with it instead of track.

"He would have been good if he worked at that," Justin said. "But he put so much time into track, he is such an athlete that he would do great in whatever sport he chose."

And his choice of track didn't turn out to be such a bad one either.

Joey just completed his junior year running the decathlon for the University of Minnesota. Although he didn't have quite the season he hoped for - he was hoping to advance to the NCAA National Meet - he didn't do too bad at all as he finished fifth in the Big 10 Meet in May.

"It has it's up and downs," Joey said. "It's a lot of work, it takes a lot of time but it's always something to work on and something to improve on. First year it was frustrating, but it has gotten a little easier but it's still a lot to work on."

The decathlon is made up of 10 sperate events: 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1,500.

"Physically it's tough because you have to be ready, to jump, throw, run short distances and long distances but more so it's mentally tough because if you have one bad event you can't let it bother the rest of your competition," Joey said. "It's hard to stay positive through the whole thing. One of the things that I have improved on over the years is my attitude. You are going to have one bad event, it's almost guaranteed to happen, it's how you react to it.

He says his favorite is the 100 and the long jump because they are both short and he doesn't like to run long distances.

And all of the events were pretty new to him except the 100 and the long jump which he competed in in high school. As a senior at GFW, he won state titles in the long jump and triple jump and was fifth in state in the 100.

"Hurdles is probably one that I struggle with the most because I am just terrible at them," he said. "I just can't figure them out, it's probably the toughest for me. The pole vault is kind of scary, going up in the air and bending the pole and all of that. I've actually gotten fairly good at that, there is still room to improve. The throws, the javelin is a lot harder than I expected, there is a lot more technique than I realized. Discus is fun, it's pretty tough too, but it's probably my best throws. Shot put, is probably the most frustrating and I struggle with it. But it's more mental and I got to just keep working at it."

In the indoor season, Joey competes in the heptathlon, which consists of the 60 meter dash, the long jump, shot put, high jump, 60-meter hurdles, pole vault, 1,0000 meter run.

"I prefer indoor better, there is no 1,500, no weather factor," he said. "You don't have to worry about the wind or the rain. Just training, your body is pretty beat up after indoor then you go to outdoor and you add more events. It's a long season and it's hard to stay healthy. I mean I like the decathlon but I prefer the heptathlon."

The indoor season went well for Joey but he got sick the week of the Big 10 meet and ended up finishing ninth overall. He made up for it in the outdoor with a fifth-place finish.

"I didn't have my best competition," Joey said. "I scored higher last year but I placed higher this year. It was raining the whole second day and it's kind of hard to pole vault in the rain but everyone else had to do. Our team won it all so it was awesome and it made the whole experience better, even though I didn't compete as well as I wanted to.

"I was kind hoping for 7,300 points because that would have gotten me to nationals. That is kind of what my goal was. I kind of fell apart during pole vault and that kind of hurt my score."

But things haven't always been so smooth for Joey.

"When I got there, I got hurt like the second day of pole vault and cracked a bone in my foot. I was hurt the whole fall season of training. Then when I came back I was struggling with all of the events, I thought about transferring by my coach [Phil Lundin and Roy Griak] refused to let me."

He was granted his release from his scholarship which gave him the option to pursue other schools.

"I thought about maybe transferring to MSU for track or maybe to Wartburg College, in Waverly Iowa for football and track," Joey said. "Football was my favorite sport and I missed that alot. I got my release to look and different schools but he kept bugging me and wouldn't let me go. So I came back another year and it paid off. Now I love it and I'm so glad I stayed.

"Somehow, my coach thought I was going to be a good decathalete, I never saw it but he did. Without him, I wouldn't be here and without him I wouldn't be here."

Since the two different routes to athletic excellence it's not surprising that they went to sperate schools. What is interesting is the schools they chose.

Bethany has a student body of 607 students and is one of the smallest colleges in the state. The University of Minnesota on the other hand has about 32,000 undergraduate students and is the fourth-largest school in the country.

"I guess the main reason was I wanted to go somewhere a little smaller and I didn't want to be too far away from home," Justin said. "It was a school that was pretty close to home and small enough for me."

As for Joey, how often do you get to go Division I?

"When I first got into it, I thought about going to the U or I could jump at Minnesota State," Joey said. "I thought I would never get a chance to go Division I again so I better try it."

After spending the first 18 years of their life together, it was a little different going to sperate schools.

"It was kind of different we were together for the first 18 years years of our lives," Joey said. "He decided to go to one of the smallest schools in the state, I went to maybe one of the biggest schools in the nation. He wasn't too far away, I got to see him play baseball, he got to see me at track meets so that was nice. At first it was weird for not being able to see him all of the time. We talked to each other a lot and we kept in touch, it just took a little while, but we adapt."

Mankato and Minneapolis aren't all that far apart so the two have made it to each others events on occasion.

"This was his last year so I tried to see him play as often as I could," Joey said. "This year, I saw quite a few games. Last year I saw a few. The past two years I probably saw five or six each year. Early on in the season, they played at the Metrodome for a few games and that is right down the alley from the U of M. Also, he went to Florida for spring break this year and I got to go to watch him, so that was cool to see him down there."

Justin said it was difficult to get to Joey's meets but he did the best he could.

"It was rare for me to go to his meets because I had games every weekend," he said. "I did get to see some of his indoor meets and I actually did get to go watch him in the Big 10 meet last year because our season ended a week before his meet. That was really fun to see that and to see him compete and everything. It's just cool to say that he competed in the Big 10 and Division I."

But the last 10 years or so have probably been most difficult on their parents Scott and Kim.

"It's pretty tough for them," Justin said. "Sometimes the fall on the same days but they always seem to make it to everything.It's pretty amazing. They usually take turns. It goes all the way back to high school, if I had a baseball game, and he had a track meet, one would go to one and then they would flip flop."

But some times it can be a challenge.

"This year both our conference tournaments were on the same weekend," Joey said. "My mom went to my brother's baseball and my dad came to my track meet. They call each other back and forth the whole time. Overall, I don't know how they do it, but they seem to make it to every track meet and every baseball game, they are awesome at that. I don't know how they do it but they always do it."

Both Justin and Joey have graduated from college already.

Justin graduated from Bethany with a business adminstration major. He plans on going back to school in the fall to get his accounting degree.

He still has the love for the game and although his college playing days are over, he will continue to take the field this summer for the Gibbon Reds in the Tomahawk East Amateur Baseball League.

"It's pretty fun," he said. "And although we didn't have much success winning games, we still attract a whole bunch of people from Gibbon to our games. We have home games on Saturday's and Sunday's and we will get 100 people every game and it's an awesome atmosphere."

Joey graduated with a degree in sports management this past spring. Since he has a year of eligibility left, he is going to grad school in the fall.

"It's strange, I am out of school and if there was no track I could be done right now," he said. "Just the way my year ended, I didn't have the year I wanted to. I improved in my scores, but I wan to go back and finish on a better note."

 
 

 

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