Karen Bottger performed like a champion for the Weston girls swimming team. A senior co-captain, Bottger was an All-Stater all four years and led the team to the Class S title this year.

"It feels good because at the Weston pool, my sister and brother have All-State plaques and it's a good way to tradition and my four years [at Weston]," Bottger says. "I made myself proud but I made my family proud as well because all three of us finished well."

She was the Lady Trojans' MVP and won the majority of her races.

"Karen worked hard in practice and swam hard and smart during the dual meets," Weston Coach Tom Grace said. "Some swimmers have a hard time translating the work in practice into performance during a meet and Karen did that well. As a contributor she was always willing to swim whatever events the team needed her to in order to score points [except the breaststroke]."

Her sister Ashley, Class '05, and brother Henry, '07, swam for the Lady Trojans and Trojans and both went on to stellar careers at Colgate University. Ashley is currently an assistant coach at Kenyon College. The youngest Bottger didn't want to be left in the dust by her older siblings and this motivated her to succeed.

"I definitely had goals to compete with them," Bottger says. "I wouldn't say it's competition but I had a drive to be up there with them because they set a high standard and I think I was successful in maintaining this standard."

Having desire and the will to win also helped Bottger. Being coachable also made a difference for her.

"Definitely, it comes down to dedication and you have to stick with it because it's not an easy sport," Bottger says. "Communication with your coaches also helps."

All three Bottgers excel in the freestyle with Ashley focusing mostly in sprint events, the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, while Henry and Karen found their niche in distance events, the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle.

"I thought I had good endurance and I thought I'd go with it in the 500," Bottger says. "I have strength going off walls, which is key to my kick and breathing and kicking."

During the summer, she worked on her cardio, which increased her strength and endurance. Swimming for a long time and working hard in practice also helped Bottger in these areas.

"Swimming comes with time and it's not an overnight thing," Bottger says. `I build my strength by constantly working hard."

Although both of her races require strength, Bottger notices the subtle differences between the two and swims each of them accordingly. If she had to choose which event she prefers, it would be the 200-free because it's suited to her multiple talents.

"The difficult thing about the 200 is it's more like a sprint," Bottger says. "You have to pace yourself but you have to go fast for the whole 200. One thing you can't do is use up all your energies in the first 50, so you have to focus on your breathing and I focus on my under water after my turns. It works because you are faster under water than out of the water. I'd like to think I have a strong underwater kick."

Whether its swimming for the Lady Trojans or the Weston Water Wizards (the club team she swims for in the off-season), Bottger believes that working on the 200-free in practice prepares her for the 500-free.

"In practice, I worked on 200 and up and I didn't do anything lower than 200," Bottger says. "I did 300s as well [in practice] and it's all about pacing yourself. Each day in practice, you work on one goal at a time and focus on something different. Sometimes it's breathing and sometimes, it's kicking. It all comes to mind control. My strokes are sometimes short and I have to focus on keeping them long. The 500 is more psychological than it's physical and I have to have the right mindset when swimming it."

Confidence and buoyancy also fuel Bottger.

"I always enter my race with a positive attitude," Bottger says. "I never go in thinking I'd lose and I go in optimistic. I also get advice from my sister and brother."

Bottger also earned All-State as a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay teams. She had important positions for both quartets, serving as the anchor leg for the 200-free relay and leadoff leg for the 400-free relay.

"Being an anchor and a leadoff leg are two different things," Bottger says. "You swim only 50 yards in the 200-free relay and there's little room for error, [thus], you have to put your head down and swim. You can't leave early and you can't leave late. If you go in with a lead, you have to maintain it, and if you are behind, you have to catch up and win. It's daunting but I love the challenge and it feels good to win it for the team."

In choosing between leading off and anchor, Bottger's preference is what she feels is best for the team.

"I prefer to lead off," Bottger says. "It's an honor anchoring a relay and both positions are important, but I do better as a leadoff than an anchor because I have a better flat start than a relay start."

If Bottger had to pick swimming individual events or relays, her preference would be based on teamwork.

"Definitely relays," Bottger says. "I love relays. When you get to swim with other teammates, you win as a team and it's more exciting."

When Bottger swam in middle school and her first two years as a Lady Trojan, she swam the backstroke as well as the 200-free. Sophomore year, she qualified for the Class s championships in the 100-yard backstroke. Junior year, she focused on the 500-free instead of the 100-back but ironically, had her best time in the 100-back (1:02) this past year.

Life in the pool for her began at age 6 when she lived in Bahrain after Henry discovered his love for the water. Once her brother began to swim, Bottger and her older sister followed suit and all three of them have always loved the water.

At age 10, Bottger and her family moved back to Connecticut after a five-year stay in Bahrain and settled in Weston. She joined the Wizards and her swimming career took off.

Leadership is a strength of hers as she served as captain. Bottger led by example through her work ethic and was approachable to her teammates. Grace credits her and all of the seniors for setting the tone on the team.

"I was honored to be appointed captain and I worked with the coaches," Bottger says. "I made sure that I wasn't only their leader but their friend as well so they could come to me. I also tried to make sure we had fun and I tried to lighten the mood because your not going to do well if your not happy. I maintained a positive attitude."

Swimming isn't Bottger's only strength, she excels academically as well. English is her favorite subject.

"It's a lot of work and I put a lot of time and effort into school and swimming," Bottger says. "You can't be a good swimmer without being a good student, it's definitely a balancing act."

Coaching runs in the family with Ashley serving as an assistant coach for Kenyon College. Currently, the youngest Bottger coaches the 8 and under Wizards. She's not sure about having a coaching career because she wants to major in college in hospitality and tourism, which she has a passion for.

But while matriculating, Bottger hopes to swim for her school.

"Karen has yet to realize how good she could be, she has another level she can access and will with a good program in college," Grace says. "I think she'll do very well."

In order to excel in the pool, Bottger will have to raise her performance to the next level.

"I'm very excited and I think it will be a good challenge," Bottger says. "I look forward to improve myself, be a part of the team and bring a positive attitude. I want to grow, not only as an athlete but as a person as well."