Papenfus wraps us up lifelong swim career


The end is perhaps the most bittersweet part of the journey, but for senior Ian Papenfus this year is the end of an experience that started in elementary school.
“I started swimming in torpedoes in fifth grade, and I swam on and off until high school,” Papenfus said.
Papenfus qualified for the Nebraska state swim meet this year in the 100-meter freestyle and in the 200-meter freestyle relay with secondary times.
A secondary time allows competitors to qualify for one of the top 32 spots in the state meet. But qualification is not always guaranteed.
Papenfus has qualified for state multiple times because he has put in many hours at the Splash Arena preparing.
“I’ve done a lot of morning practices; we went twice a day during Christmas break. We had a five day break over the actual Christmas holiday and picked it right back up,” Papenfus said.
Papenfus finished 31st in the 100 freestyle and 29th in the 200 freestyle relay at state earlier this month.
“I didn’t do as well at state as I hoped, but I was happy with the times I produced,” Papenfus said. “We increased from our original ranking in the relay which is a really big accomplishment.”
However, despite Papenfus seeming like the average American high school student, both of his parents are South African immigrants.
“Afrikaans is the language my parents speak and the language we speak around the house,” Papenfus said.
Afrikaans is one of eleven national languages of South Africa. Approximately 17.2 million people speak Afrikaans; it was considered a dialect of Dutch until it was declared its own distinct language in 1925.
The language is originally a mixture of Dutch and tribal language as a medium of communication between natives of South Africa and the Dutch settlers.
“It’s an old Dutch language so it’s a little bit softer and more of the words come out of the back of your mouth,” Papenfus said.
Papenfus has also visited South Africa on multiple occasions.
“We used to visit there a lot, especially when I was little. We would go there over Christmas break when it’s summer over there and more recently my grandparents would come here since there’s more to do here,” Papenfus said.
“I love the language when we go to South Africa…it adds a different feeling to everything you experience. The people are a little bit different than they are here,” Papenfus said. “ I think having African heritage is really cool, it’s not something to expect from a white person, if I say I’m from South Africa they don’t believe me.”
Despite being proud of his background there is a more humorous side to his heritage.
“I’m proud of it, I like speaking the language with my parents in public, it adds a secrecy behind it and it’s just so different,” Papenfus said.
Next fall Papenfus will be attending Chadron State College as a member of RHOP (Rural Health Opportunities Program). He hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a medical doctor.Papenfus wraps up lifelong swim caree