Schweizer legacy reaches further than Mizzou
DES MOINES – As she crossed the finish line at the Drake Relays on April 26, Karissa Schweizer threw her arms up in the air in triumph.
Despite the “four” stuck to her leg, the exhausted and relieved smile said more of her run than her number. As a senior of the University of Missouri, Schweizer finally won her first title at the Drake Relays after participating in them for eight years. She also broke a meet record.
“I’m proud,” her father Mike said. “Amazed.”
Schweizer grew up in a family full of runners. Her father and grandfather were both inducted into the Hall of Fame at Dowling Catholic High School, the same high school Schweizer ran at before college.
Mike and his father were also All-Americans at the University of Minnesota, Mankato.
It was at the university where Mike would meet his future wife, Kathy, who also ran for the school. Kathy would miss the title of All-American by only one place.
Their children would have big shoes to fill.
“Just being able to run with them and for them is just kind of awesome,” Karissa Schweizer said.
She began running in fifth grade. But unlike most children, that was not her first taste of the sport.
“Kathy was at the Relays when she was pregnant with Karissa,” Mike said.
In fact, Schweizer has heard the story of her name many times. According to her, it was at the Drake Relays when her mother first heard the name “Karissa,” after one of the runners’ names was called over the loudspeakers.
“It’s always just kind of been a special meet to me,” Schweizer said. “It just has a lot of importance in my family.”
Growing up in Urbandale, Iowa, Schweizer lived only a little more than four miles from where the Drake Relays were held. As she got older, her family would begin attending the meets every year.
But this tradition had started long before Schweizer’s birth.
“I started going to the Drake Relays when I was 12,” Mike said. “I think this is my 40th year of Drake Relays and I haven’t missed a meet.”
Mike’s father, Frank, coached at Dowling Catholic High school from 1964 to 2007. Not only would he drag his sons to several meets throughout the years, but he would also go on to teach them everything he knew.
Years later, he would do the same with his granddaughter.
“We started out when she really knew nothing,” Franks said. “I brought her to her first practice and she wowed everybody. She ran with the fifth grade boys and girls; and it goes all the way up to 8thgraders. She beat everybody. And I said ‘Karissa, this is impressive.’”
“He wasn’t technically my actual coach, but he was always that kind of support guy that I would always ask if I felt something in my foot or I felt something in my leg,” Schweizer said. “I would be like ‘what do I do, grandpa?’ and I’d call him and I still call him before every race.”
True to her words, Frank said Schweizer has still never missed calling him before every race she competes in.
“I think we just started and it just became tradition, and she knows I enjoy talking to her,” Frank said.
Even as a five-time NCAA champion, Schweizer has not stopped looking to her grandfather for support.
“He’s been to every national meet of mine, and they have been pretty far away sometimes,” Schweizer said. “So it’s been truly amazing that they can make it.”
Schweizer said she now has one more goal she would like to accomplish: making the U.S. Olympic team. However, her family said they are proud of her whether she makes it or not.
In fact, Frank said he still could not believe his granddaughter’s success sometimes.
“It’s like a dream,” He said, “It’s like you’re sitting on your couch watching a boring movie and you’re just dreaming, and they all come true. It’s scary.”
The day after Schweizer won the title for her 5K run at the Relays, Frank remembered a piece of advice he gave his granddaughter in fifth grade.
“’You’re going to win a lot of races and it’s very important that you be humble.’”
Frank said he is proud of the legacy of his family, and he tears up every time he watches his grandchildren compete.
“That’s the best part,” he said. “I just get teary-eyed every time.”
Watch part one of KOMU's two-part Karissa Schweizer series here:
Watch Part two of KOMU's two-part Karissa Schweizer series here: