Westosha Central senior Claire Koeppel, a member of the Lake Geneva Badger co-op swimmer, races a leg for a relay team during the 2018 Southern Lakes Conference meet. Koeppel qualified for state in two events after capturing two titles at sectionals (Tom Ganser/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

Claire Koeppel has had a banner senior season for the Lake Geneva Badger co-op swim team.

Entering the WIAA Division 1 sectional swimming and diving competition Nov. 3 at Greenfield, Koeppel already produced a stellar season in the Southern Lakes Conference, where she notched more than a dozen individual victories along with a title in the 200-yard freestyle event.

Koeppel, who finished second in the 500-yard freestyle at the conference meet, also was a member of the conference champion 400-meter freestyle relay team.

Like her SLC appearance, she captured two titles at the Nov. 3 sectional, this time in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events to punch her ticket to the state meet held Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Natatorium.

With her sectional titles, Koeppel, of Westosha Central, became the second Badger co-op swimmer to win an individual event in as many seasons.

Last year, Big Foot representative Grace Gillingham advanced to the state meet in the 100 breaststroke.

For Westosha Central athletes, Eden Wember qualified two years ago, when she was a sophomore.

Koeppel, who finished her 500 freestyle race at 5 minutes, 22.07 seconds, and 200 in 1:59, said the accomplishment was years in the making.

“Ever since my sophomore year and especially junior year, I knew that it could be reached… last year I was kind of disappointed because I was pretty close in the 500,” she said. “But, this year I was ready to go for it. My ultimate goal was to make it to state in some way.”

As a junior, Koeppel placed fourth in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:01.87 and fifth in the 500 freestyle at 5:25.01

Taking what she learned from her junior campaign, along with support from her teammates, coaches and family, Koeppel felt prepared to finish first in both events last weekend.

“While we were focusing as a team, everyone was excited and it got me excited at the actual meeting to know that everyone was there with me,” she said. “That helped for sure.”

Among the supporters were Koeppel’s parents, Jason and Trish, along with several others who’ve played key roles in her life.

“It was awesome to look over my shoulder and see everybody there that has supported me since my freshman year,” she said.

Challenge to qualify
Specific to the Greenfield sectional, Koeppel acknowledged it’s a challenge to qualify, which makes winning more important.

“Our sectional doesn’t compete well with other sectionals time-wise, so it is nerve-wracking knowing that in our sectional, if you don’t win it, you have a much harder time qualifying for state,” she said.

Koeppel, however, left nothing to chance as she won both events.

“When you win it, it is a good feeling knowing you are in it and making it to state is right in your back pocket,” she said.

When she makes a splash in Madison, Koeppel has one simple goal – to shave time off both of her events.

“My ultimate goal is to simply drop time, especially in the 500,” she said.

Offseason dedication
Koeppel, who resides in Kenosha, spent the offseason training with former coach Glen Biller in Lake Geneva. During the summer, with Biller’s guidance, she was able to bolster her conditioning and improve her times.

Current coach Lauren Kaiser picked up where Biller left off and continued to show support for Koeppel and the rest of the team.

“I had so much support through other coaches, my teammates and my parents, it was unbelievable,” Koeppel said. “It was kind of like they all knew that I was really close.”

Central representation
Koeppel and Eden Wember, meanwhile, are not the only representatives from western Kenosha County to compete for the Badger co-op team.

Sophomore Mackenzie Farm and senior Easten Wember, both of Westosha Central, and Wilmot’s Abby Horton, a sophomore, along with senior Jenna Kerkman are also on the team.

Although Koeppel admits traveling nearly 30 minutes to Badger is a daunting task at times, she said riding along with her western Kenosha County teammates makes the trip easier.

“It is hard and it is tough getting there sometimes, but we carpool together instead of being by ourselves,” she said.

Other contributors
Co-op swim team members that contributed to the second place finish were:
• Fifth in 200-yard medley relay (Kearyn Brennan, Emma Colton, Eden Wember, Lilly Westlund; 1:56.39);
• Fifth in the 100-yard butterfly (Wember; 1:02.39);
• Fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (Lauren O’Brien; 55.69);
• Fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay (O’Brien, Ella Eck, Coltman, Koeppel; 1:42.45);
• Fourth (Brennan; 1:03.29) and fifth (Eck; 1:03.66) in the 100-yard backstroke;
• Fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (Coltman; 1:09.64);
• Second in the 400-yard freestyle relay (Brennan, Eck, O’Brien, Koeppel; 3:44.09).


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