Warriors Athlete of Week: Warriors’ Kuepers keeps getting faster
Mason Kuepers was part of two record-breaking relays and won the 100-yard freestyle to help Brainerd win the Section 8-2A True Team meet.
Steve and Alissa Kuepers knew what they were doing when they named their son Mason.
The Brainerd Warriors junior stands 6-foot-4 and is built like a brick house. While he doesn’t notice if his size is an intimidation factor during swimming and diving meets, it hasn’t stopped him from making waves for the Warriors this season.
Kuepers along with seniors Cade Rosenwald, Thomas Ruhl and junior Parker Tatge set two Section 8-2A True Team relay records Saturday, Jan. 15, in Elk River. Kuepers also collected a first- and second-place finish to help the Warriors to a 171-point team victory to advance to the State True Team meet scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan., 22 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.
“We were excited about breaking the record and we all thought that we could be at our top in-season performance for those relays,” Kuepers said. “We all felt good so we figured we were going to win. We were seeded really good and we just went out and did what we knew we could do.”
Kuepers and the Warriors opened the True Team meet with a record-breaking time of 1:39.9 to win the 200-yard medley relay.
Kuepers said when he hit the water for both relays Brainerd was leading. Then he was just a matter of him vs. the clock.
“There isn’t as much stress because you know you’re going to win depending on where you are, but it’s harder to know how fast you’re going exactly,” Kuepers said about having a lead. “It’s easier to go really fast when you’re trying to beat somebody.”
That same foursome set another section true team record in the 200 freestyle, which Kuepers anchored again.
“He is just a huge, strong kid who is just going to develop into a fantastic swimmer as he gets older,” Zemke said. “Potentially as a college swimmer, he’s just going to be fantastic. He works extremely hard. He spent all summer down in Sartell training and swimming.
“He’s got a lot of talent, obviously, but he is a big, big guy.”
In between the two record-breaking performances, the junior finished second to his own teammate in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.43. Rosenwald won the event in 22.33.
“That was a fun race,” Zemke said. “We knew those guys would be right there. Thomas (Ruhl) would have been in there, too. Thomas led off the 200 free relay and his split time might have won the 50 free as well. Those three guys are very talented.
“It’s fun as a coach to sit back and coach talent. Obviously, we have a good team because we have talent and any coach knows if you’re good you have talent. Mason definitely has that.”
Kuepers did get an individual victory in the 100 freestyle with a winning time of 49.05.
“In the 100, I’ve raced the Tech guy (Carsten Reuter) before and he would always blast it out really fast,” Kuepers said. “I would always come back on him a little bit at the end. I knew if I could stay with him for the first 50 that I would be able to beat him. That was my race plan going into it and it worked out just as I was planning. I ended up beating him at the end. I was happy with the time and It was a good race.”
In a 103-56 blowout of Fergus Falls Tuesday, Jan. 11, Kuepers was out-touched by Ruhl in the 50 freestyle by 0.2 seconds, but later won the 100 butterfly in 53.53.
“Mason can swim any event,” Zemke said. “We can move him all over the place. Basically what we’re trying to do is find out exactly where is the best place for him. We kind of have it down to the 50 and 100 free is kind of where he needs to be, but his 100 fly is great. His individual medley is great. We’re going to put him in the 200 free on Thursday against Willmar.
“The only place I probably wouldn’t put him is the breaststroke, but I think his 100 breaststroke could be good as well. It’s kind of fun to watch as a coach.”
He helped the 200 medley and 400 free relays to victories as the Warriors improved to 4-0 in the Central Lakes Conference and 5-0 overall.
“He’s just good,” Zemke said. “He’s talented. Watching him today at practice. He’s grabbing the water and pulling and he can really burn through the yards fast. Whatever we tell him to do it’ just, ‘yes coach. Yes, coach.’ At the end of practice, I always stand by the doors and watch every guy leave and he always says, ‘thank you, coach.’
“It’s just fun to be around someone who appreciates the sport and works so hard and demonstrates what we’re trying to teach our kids in practice every day.”
As a sophomore, Kuepers advanced to state in both the 100 and 200 freestyles. He didn’t make the finals of the 200, but placed 13th in the 100 and was part of the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
“Right now I’m just working on the little stuff to get faster,” Kuepers said. “I’m focusing on my turns and starts and strokes right now. I think I can get a lot faster. I’ve been working on a lot of those little things and I’ve been slowly improving throughout the year. My confidence level is high. I think I can do well.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Parker Tatge, boys swimming and diving, won one individual event and was part of two record-breaking relays in the Section 8-2A True Team meet.
Cade Rosenwald, boys swimming and diving, won two individual events and was part of two record-breaking relays in the Section 8-2A True Team.
Thomas Ruhl, boys swimming and diving, won one individual event and was part of two record-breaking relays in the Section 8-2A True Team meet.
Dalton Barrett, wrestling, finished 6-0 at the Rick Lee Invite.
Easton Dircks, wrestling, finished 6-0 at the Rick Lee Invite and 2-0 in a CLC Triangular.
Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished last week 7-1 and earned his 100th career victory.
Johnny Pecarich, boys basketball, finished with 27 points against Minnetonka and 21 against Sartell.
Nick Evanson, boys basketball, finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Minnetonka and 12 points, five rebounds and six assists against Sartell.
Harrison Seymour, boys hockey, finished with two goals and an assist in a win over Bemidji.
Lily Schaeffer, girls Nordic skiing, won the Maplelag Invite in 31:58.2.
Tre’Von Otey, floor hockey, scored three goals against Robbinsdale.
Sport: Boys swimming and diving
Position: Freestyles and relays
Career highlight: Competing in last year’s Class 2A state swimming and diving meet
Other sports: Cross-country running
Grade-point average: 4.0
Favorite class: AP U.S. History
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Avengers: Infinity War”
Favorite website or app: YouTube
Favorite restaurant: Subway
Future plans: Hopes to swim in college while studying business
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Parents: Steve and Alissa Kuepers