Five Verona seniors signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, Feb. 5, to continue their athletic careers at Division I colleges.
Leah Remiker (women’s track & field) and Eliot Popkewitz (men’s soccer) are staying close to home at Wisconsin, Gunnar Kilen signed to play football at Northern Iowa, Josie McCartney will swim at Seton Hall and Kasie Keyes will play softball at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Remiker, Popkweitz to join Badgers
Remiker will feel right at home in Madison since both of her parents went to UW.
“All of my family went there and I went on a tour and realized that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “They made such great memories there. It’s a family thing.”
Remiker said it’s good to have her college decision official. She drew recruiting interest from several Division I schools and also considered Minnesota, Drake and Illinois State.
“I was nervous leading up to it,” she said. “I know it wasn’t set in stone. Now that it’s actually set, it’s like this is happening and real.”
Remiker is a three-time Division 1 state qualifier at Verona. Despite battling shin splints and tendinitis in her knee that sabotaged her training regimen last spring, she qualified for state in the 800-meter run and finished 14th (2:19.45).
Remiker’s best time in the 800 is 2:18, three seconds away from the school record. She will look to etch her name in the school record books before becoming a middle distance runner for the Badgers.
“I’m hoping to return to state,” she said, “and I would really like to get the school record in the 800.”
Popkewitz’s decision capped off a standout prep career after he led the Wildcats to the Division 1 state championship in the program’s inaugural state appearance.
The Badgers were on Popkewitz’s mind at an early age. He has had a Wisconsin soccer scarf hanging up in his bedroom since he was 10.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play soccer at Wisconsin,” he said. “I’m finishing that step of the dream, so it feels great.”
The 5-foot-8 midfielder and three-year captain became the program leader in goals (40) after finding the back of the net 14 times and dished out a single-season program record 16 assists.
However, Popkewitz will make the switch to left back for UW. He played the position for his Madison 56ers club team.
“I’m happy to play anywhere, but they have explicitly told me I will be playing left back,” he said. “There will definitely be a little bit of a learning curve, but I’ve already started embracing it.”
Popkewitz was a first-team all-Big Eight Conference selection the last two seasons. He was the Big Eight player of the year and included in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association’s “Best 11” on the all-state team as a senior. He was also selected to the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Fall High School Boys All-Great Lakes Region Team.
Kilen finds home at UNI
A 6-foot-7, 280-pound center, Kilen was recruited as a building block along the Panthers’ offensive line.
Kilen made seven visits to campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa. UNI went 10-5 last season, finished second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals.
“I didn’t sign in December, and over time I narrowed my choices and it seemed like a no-brainer,” Kilen said. “After a while, it just made sense.”
He combined with fellow senior Adam Vandervest, a Western Michigan recruit, to pave the way for a Verona rushing attack that averaged 241.5 yards per game and finished the season 7-3.
Kilen received 22 Division I offers and considered Colorado State, Wyoming and Ball State. He was a defensive lineman in youth football, and didn’t make the switch to offense until 2018.
“Northern Iowa had the best football program,” Kilen said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to go there for a great education and I’m going into construction management, which is a great degree. It’s a great program, it’s close to home and a great fit.”
McCartney feels like family with Pirates
McCartney was a four-time Division 1 state qualifier for the Verona Area/Mount Horeb girls swimming team.
She was a member of the Wildcats’ 200-yard medley relay team that won a state title with a time of 1:43.34, helping VA/MH to a fourth-place finish in the team standings. She also finished seventh in the 100 butterfly as a junior and 15th as a senior.
McCartney was recruited to swim the butterfly, but said she also will swim the 100- and 200-yard freestyle.
“It’s a really amazing opportunity and I’m thankful I was able to get to this point,” she said. “Looking back at my whole swimming career, it was a big thing to swim in college. When I started, it was this huge goal I always wanted to achieve. I never thought it would be possible.”
McCartney also looked at Butler and other colleges in the Midwest. She made an official visit to Seton Hall in October and stayed overnight with the team.
“It felt so close like a family and the coaching staff was so supportive,” McCartney said. “It’s really the college experience I want with a really close team, really strong academics and opportunities at a big university.”
Seton Hall, located in South Orange, New Jersey, is a member of the Big Eight Conference.
Keyes follows faith to Indy
Keyes used a family connection to get an opportunity to continue her softball career at IUPUI.
Her sister, Cori Keyes, played softball at Detroit Mercy, one of the Jaguars’ conference rivals in the Horizon League.
“It’s such a relief,” Kasie Keyes said. “I didn’t know where I was going at the beginning of my senior year, so I just put all my faith in God. He led me down a path to the right school.”
Keyes said she reached out to IUPUI on a “leap of faith”. She attended a softball camp in November, and at the end of that month, she made an official visit that resulted in a scholarship offer.
“The campus is beautiful,” she said, “and it’s downtown Indianapolis, so what’s not to like? I’m familiar with the conference and it’s a perfect fit for me.”
A slick-fielding, power-hitting shortstop for the Wildcats, Keyes was a key cog in Verona’s undefeated run through the Big Eight Conference last season. She led the Wildcats in doubles (13), walks (16) and slugging percentage (.814) on her way to three prestigious honors — first-team all-conference, honorable mention all-state and first-team all-district.
IUPUI went 18-38 and finished fifth in the Horizon League last season.