Kelly Walsh vs. Rock Springs

Kelly Walsh’s Kendal Chipperfield works between Rock Springs’ Delia Griffin, left, and Kia Comstock during their game on May 5 at the Tom Staffileno Activity Complex in Casper.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

One fateful day at swimming practice, Kendal Chipperfield and her teammates were doing a drill they called "no-breathers."

That's where they dove into the pool, swam underwater to the side, turned and repeated that until they each needed to come up for air.

And they all did, except Chipperfield. She refused to come up for air. She wanted to stretch her limits.

Then she passed out.

"That's Kendal," Kelly Walsh girls soccer coach Jerry Realing said. "It's either 100 percent or nothing, and I've never seen her at nothing."

Her coach had to jump into the water and pull her from the water.

"I just woke up on the side of the pool and that's pretty much all I can remember," Chipperfield said Wednesday. "It was pretty crazy, pretty scary."

Sadly, the Kelly Walsh junior is no stranger to scary or to heartache. She's become the emotional lift to this year's Trojans because of what she brings to the team and what has helped shaped her life.

Her father, Scott, died unexpectedly when Chipperfield was just 13 years old.

It was an understandably difficult time for the family, including brother Cody, who was a standout athlete at Natrona County High School before following in his father's footsteps and wrestling at the University of Wyoming.

"He was just the best," she said. "We have so many funny stories about him that I think it's brought all of us closer."

When her high school career began, Kendal Chipperfield became a dedicated athlete just like her father and older brother.

She qualified for the state swimming meet in the 200-meter intermediate medley as a freshman before qualifying in the 100 breaststroke, 50 freestyle and as a member of the 200 medley relay team as a sophomore. She decided her winters were best spent on an indoor track, where she is also competitive.

But then came the news that nearly sidetracked everything.

Her mother, Laura, was diagnosed with cancer last year, leaving Chipperfield with the thought of losing both parents at 16 years old.

"It made me realize that you have to be positive and try and push through everything," she said. "It made me want to have a better outlook on life and be positive when they're feeling down because I know what it's like."

That's when she stepped away from the pool, giving her time to improve at indoor track and at soccer. During that emotional time she found solace in her soccer teammates and preferred to be out on the field with them.

It's also where her teammates prefer she be.

"I've played soccer with Kendal for, like, 10 years," junior midfielder Grace Vigneri said. "It's just really awesome to have her on the team. She lifts everybody's spirits up and keeps fighting for the ball so it encourages us to keep going."

Chipperfield, who admitted to struggling in her freshman soccer season, rewarded her teammates with the same hard-working attitude every day in practice. The same attitude that left her on the side of the pool.

"It's a huge lift on us," Realing said, "because if she's on the field and you're not going hard then you're going to stand out because she's going to."

That has made her a fan favorite among the Kelly Walsh bench.

At first glance, Chipperfield doesn't look like the prototypical soccer player. Muscular and stocky, it's apparent the wrestling body was genetic.

But when she's on the field it stirs the Trojans with new life. Especially when she's jostling for the ball.

During the Trojans' regional semifinal match against Jackson, Broncs' standout scorer Raychel Fairbanks was nearing the box on her run toward goal in a tie game.

That's when the bulldozer, or bulldog, knocked Fairbanks off the ball and cleared it of danger.

"It's kind of funny, actually, to see them go against her," Vigneri said. "No one can get past her and it's funny because she's a bulldozer and she bulls over them."

There's also the occasions when an opponent has the ball and is setting up the offense instead of on a breakaway.

Chipperfield's defensive persistence has allowed the Trojans to increase pressure ahead of this weekend's state tournament, in hopes of disrupting East Conference opponents.

"It forces them to move the ball quickly because when it's coming to you, so is she," Realing said. "You hope the ball gets there before she does so you can get rid of it because she's not going to be too far behind the ball.

"But when she arrives there she does so with great athleticism. She's not just a wrecking ball, she can't be. It forces them to be better athletes."

Kelly Walsh plays Cheyenne East in the quarterfinals.

History is not on the Trojans' side, but they have a quick message if the T-Birds believe it will be an easy opener: Don't hold your breath.

Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @Brady_CST

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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