Trey Schopen, Kevin Braun lead McHenry's promising sophomore swimmers

Despite having only two seniors on the roster, McHenry boys swimming coach Craig Fowles raved about his team at the beginning of the season because of the strength of the sophomore class.

The sophomores, headlined by distance swimmer Trey Schopen and sprinter Kevin Braun, broke three freshman/sophomore school records early in the season and are continuing to drop time close to state qualifying standards. Fowles said this group has the chance to do something special.

“This is a group full of speed,” he said. “It’s probably the best entire class I’ve ever coached.”

After a promising freshman season, Schopen and Braun took a serious approach to their training in hopes of reaching a common goal of the state meet. The added work has helped them drop time and be more competitive this season.

Schopen, who started swimming competitively at age 5, worked in the pool with his father, Pete. Despite never swimming himself, Pete Schopen learned a lot about the sport watching his son throughout the years. The two made the decision to switch from sprint events to distance events when Schopen was 12 because he wasn’t seeing any drops in time. He found his niche in the distance events after making big strides.

Schopen also has been a more confident person during his sophomore year, and it has translated into a comfortableness in the pool. He also has started lifting weights regularly for the first time and has packed on some muscle to his 5-foot-10 frame. The added lifting has helped with his pull and has made him more effective during 100-yard butterfly and the 200 and 500 freestyle events.

“I thought high school would be kind of intimidating as a freshman, and it really was at first,” he said. “But now I’m a sophomore and I’m used to it and more comfortable when I’m racing, and it’s been a lot better. 

“I’m taking swimming more seriously than I ever have, and it’s been really fun.”

The results have shown. The sophomore is just two seconds off the state qualifying time in the 100 butterfly and a handful of seconds off in both distance events. With a strong rest of the season, he hopes to make the Warriors a household name in the sport for the next few years.

In contrast to Schopen, who has been swimming most of his life, Braun found the sport a different way. Braun remembered when his older brother became really interested in swimming because it was then when he, too, was introduced to the sport. 

He remembers watching Michael Phelps collect eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Soon after, his brother began swimming. Seeing the sport as a good, healthy outlet, and being a former swimmer herself, Braun’s mother decided to push her other kids into the sport.

“My mom made the rest of us swim,” Braun said. “She was a swimmer in high school, so she knew about the sport, but I never expected myself to follow, and I ended up liking it.”

Braun has been swimming with club teams ever since, and now the sophomore is in the middle of a breakout season and is poised to make a run at qualifying for the state meet. The 6-4 sprinter is less than a second off the 50 freestyle state standard and just two seconds off the 100 freestyle standard.

With all of the success, Braun has found it hard to not think about the future and what he and his teammates can accomplish despite still having unrealized goals this season.

“It’s pretty cool what we’ve done so far,” he said. “I’m always anticipating what we will be like when we’re seniors. I know we have a lot of potential, but we have to make sure to work hard to realize it.”