Pine River-Backus Activities/Athletics Director Randy Schwegel is turning in his teaching cap, but he will be returning to PR-B as activities director in a different capacity.
Schwegel is from St. Cloud originally, where he went to Apollo High School. He carries various degrees, one in health and physical education from the University of Minnesota Morris, one social studies degree from Bemidji State, and a master's degree from Hamline University.
Schwegel began his teaching career in North Dakota. There he taught and coached students in Dunseith and Edinburg, but before then he was raised and educated in Minnesota, where he eventually returned.
“My wife and I were looking for a small town. We both grew up in St. Cloud and we were looking for small town atmosphere,” Schwegel said. “Bob Nelson was teaching there (Backus High School) at the time and we were college buddies. He told me about the opening that was there and I interviewed for the job and got it.”
In 1980 it seemed that Schwegel was meant to work in Backus. They were looking for a football coach, a girls' basketball coach, and someone to teach social studies, physical education and health classes.
About the only difference between the job opening and Schwegel’s position in North Dakota was that he coached boys' basketball there. He was even teaching from the same history book.
“It was kind of the exact job I was doing in North Dakota,” Schwegel said. “It was almost a perfect match.”
Over time, Schwegel’s position, and his school, changed. When he was hired, there was already talk of merging the Backus and Pine River schools.
“The tough part of it was more the people in the community, not the kids, but your diehard Pine River people and diehard Backus people who grew up in the communities with the rivalry that developed over the many, many years between the two,” Schwegel said. “That was hard for a lot of older people to handle. I think the kids made the transition great. They all knew each other anyway.”
During the first few years following the merger, Schwegel and other teachers sometimes found themselves splitting their time between the two schools. Schwegel taught classes in Backus and coached track in Pine River at one time.
Schwegel’s job was simplified when Backus and Pine River high schools merged completely, as he was able to teach and coach in the same location again.
Schwegel’s job has changed over the years. He no longer teaches social studies, but he does teach physical education. When he moved to Pine River he was no longer coaching girls' basketball, but became assistant coach for the boys' basketball team and picked up a position as athletics and activities director. He no longer coaches track, football or boys' basketball. In the 2006-07 school year he came back to coaching the girls' basketball team, which has been one of his career highlights.
Schwegel’s years coaching brought many awards and exciting moments. He coached a football team that played in the Fargodome for finals and a boys' basketball team that went to the state tournament.
“The girls' team I have right now, and I’ve had some good girls' teams in Backus that won the conference, but this girls' team I have right now is probably my favorite team ever, because I had them forever,” Schwegel said. “Since they were in eighth grade, and Tatum (Sheley) since she was in seventh grade, they’ve done some things that won’t be duplicated for a long, long time. How do you win six conference championships in a row? Nobody is going to do that in a conference for at least six years.”
At the completion of this year Schwegel retires from teaching, and his position as athletic and activities director technically ends. However, he will fill a part-time activities director position that replaced his current position. Even so, there are some things he will miss.
“I do enjoy the kids. I do enjoy working with them, and that’s why I’m going to want to keep doing these two jobs, coaching basketball and doing the A.D. part of it,” Schwegel said. “The biggest thing I’m going to miss about being here the full day is the kids. I just still enjoy being around kids. They keep you young.”
With his reduced hours, Schwegel is expecting to have time to do “whatever he wants to do.” For Schwegel this includes lots of fishing, hunting, spending time with friends and possibly traveling. He does not intend to do any substitute teaching.