It started at his brother’s meets. Then he watched his sister compete.
Before long, Wes Jekel was in the pool himself — and, not long after that, he was doing things neither of his siblings had done.
The Madison West junior holds the No. 1 time in the state for the 200-yard individual medley, as well as the third best time in the 100 backstroke. Jekel also is a member of the state’s second-ranked 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams.
“He’s always been a pretty awesome talent,” West coach Bill Weaver said. “The family has a pretty rich swimming history in Madison.”
The two Jekel siblings who came before Wes were part of that history. The oldest, Sam, competes at UW-Stevens Point and made it to the NCAA Division III meet last year.
Wes’ older sister, Jo, was a three-time all-state selection in high school and an All-American as a senior. She now swims at the University of Iowa.
“I was always at their meets growing up,” Jekel said. “That’s where I fell in love with swimming.”
All three siblings swam at West, facing some of the best competition in the state within the Big Eight Conference. Although Jekel says his siblings keep competition friendly, he couldn’t help but mention the moment he accomplished something neither of them had done: beat Madison Memorial.
In early December, Jekel and his teammates did just that in a Big Eight Conference dual.
“We hadn’t beaten them in, like, 20 years,” Jekel said. “I remember going to those meets as a kid and it was always ‘Could this be the year?’ ”
Officially, it had been 19 years since the Spartans lost a regular-season Big Eight dual meet; 163 meets, to be exact. Although West had defeated Memorial in the Big Eight Conference meet last spring, the dual victory was special — especially for the Jekel family.
“My parents were texting and updating my siblings the whole time, and then afterward they both called me,” Jekel said. “It was really fun and really cool to know all the West alumni were cheering for us.”
Soon after West defeated Memorial, the first Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association state rankings were published. The Regents were second, one spot ahead of Memorial — but one spot behind another Big Eight power, Middleton.
Two weeks later, the Regents overtook the Cardinals for the No. 1 ranking. They have held on to that top spot ever since.
Statistically, Jekel is a major contributor to his team’s success, but Coach Weaver says the junior’s influence goes even deeper.
“He’s a leader by example. One of Wes’ greatest talents is his competitiveness, and that’s something that’s given to you. You can’t teach that,” Weaver said.
Perhaps that talent was forged from the reason Jekel swims. Whether for his siblings, other Madison West alumni or the teammates on his relay crews, Jekel says he’s always swimming for other people.
“I love relays,” Jekel said. “They’re different, because you know while you’re in the pool that you’re swimming for those other guys on the team.”
That’s a feeling Jekel will carry into the Big Eight meet, in which he and his teammates hope to repeat as conference champs.
“There’s a lot of great teams there,” Jekel said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”