Verona Area/Mount Horeb freshman Peyton Drexler showcased her strength in the distance events, but the Wildcats lost 98-72 in a Big Eight Conference dual at Middleton on Friday, Aug. 30.

Drexler won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 57.96 seconds and she finished first in the 500 free (5:17.64).

“Peyton Drexler had some very good swims in the distance events, faster than I expected,” Verona Area/Mount Horeb coach Bill Wuerger said.

The Wildcats had practices at 5:45 a.m. and started school last week.

“I expected them to be a little tired Friday night, but they didn’t swim that way,” Wuerger said. “There were many fast times for this early in the season. This was the most competitive meet we’ve had with Middleton in the last four years.”

Verona senior Sara Stewart, an Illinois State commit, won the 100 butterfly (59.92) and took second in the 100 backstroke (1:00.01).

“I was really happy with it,” Stewart said of her time in the butterfly. “My goal was to go right under 1 minute and I was right at that. My underwaters were good and I was just trying to focus on that.”

Stewart was excited to see the team turn in a strong performance against one of the Big Eight’s title contenders.

“They have always been our biggest competition,” she said. “It felt really good hearing that it was that close. I never think we have been that close to them before so it was really exciting.”

Verona sophomore Kenzie Zuehl took first in the 100 free (59.42), edging Middleton’s Maddy Lawn by .02 of a second.

Zuehl also posted a second-place finish in the 50 free (25.17).

Kaitlyn Zuehl, Kenzie Zuehl, Tola Klabough and Maia Blas won the 200 free relay with a time of 1:42.07. The 400 free relay team of Drexler, Stewart, Kenzie Zuehl and Josie McCartney took second (3:42.11). Senior Sam Malecki placed second in the 200 individual medley (2:15.89).

“We put in all our effort in the end,” Stewart said. “It was close. Middleton did great, too. It was a good race.”

The Wildcats completed a triathlon with a 1.2 mile swim, 6 mile bike ride and 2 mile run Saturday Aug. 31. The triathlon wrapped up the team’s early-season cross training program.