It was a bittersweet day for Speedy Kent, Isabelle Maleki and the rest of the 2016 North Shore Conference champion Homestead girls golf team on Sept. 20.
The two led the Highlanders to a sweep of all NSC meets this fall, including the 18-hole finale at Washington County on that warm, muddy day in a round that lasted close to six hours.
They were tired and also dealing with the baggage that veteran Highlander coach John Krueger was working his last league meet as he will give up golf coaching duties to more fully embrace his new post as assistant athletic director, a position he recently accepted that was just created by the district.
The very idea of Krueger leaving was not sitting well with the pair of junior team leaders.
"It's just very sad to see him leave," Kent said. "These last few meets are going to be so emotional for us. It was awesome that he got that job, it's very deserved, and we're excited for him, but..."
Maleki took it a step further.
"I really wanted him to be around for my senior year (next fall) because he knows how we play so well," Maleki said. "I was thinking about the ninth hole over at Fire Ridge at that (recent NSC) mini-meet. I was talking to him about club selection, and he suggested something, and I didn't think it was quite right, but he said, 'Trust me, it'll work.'
"And it did."
Maleki shot a nine-hole personal best of 36 that particular day.
That kind of people experience is why Krueger was hired in the first place for the new position, but it is hard for him to step away after a 16-year tenure with the golf team that included 13 conference titles and two WIAA state crowns.
"I realized that there were going to have to be sacrifices made when I took this job," said Krueger, noting the number of tasks that have to be done in order to get the academic and athletic plant up to speed in August and September. "We all know the beginning of the school year is so crucial to any district. I really can't afford to jeopardize that."
Krueger will also remain on as a physical education teacher at the school.
"This is a great opportunity," he said. "I also really like the idea of working alongside someone like Erich (new Homestead AD Hinterstocker) who has such drive. He's been so very supportive and helpful throughout this whole process.
"We're going to try and help the athletic program in any way we can. I believe we'll be a good compliment to each other."
In the meantime, he'll continue in his current task of taking this Homestead golf team as far as it can.
They took part in WIAA regional play on Sept. 28 and will advance to the sectional they will host at MeeKwon on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The top two teams and first three individuals not on those teams will advance from sectional to the state meet at University Ridge in Madison, Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 10 and 11
The state-ranked Highlanders will face challenges for one of those two state spots from Southeast Conference champion Franklin and Greater Metro winner Brookfield Central.
"I'm pretty happy with the way the team is trending," said Krueger. "We are in the mix with the top teams in the state when all the girls play consistent and the way they are capable of. Down the stretch we have some great experience up and down the lineup that will help us keep things in perspective and never take a shot for granted."
Homestead won the 18-hole finale with a score of 339, while Cedarburg was second with 364. The warm weather drained the competitors, but Kent still won individual honors with a 75, while Maleki was second with an 83, Abbey Schneeberger fourth with a 90, Anne Schlageter, sixth with a 91 and Trinidy Pate seventh with a 93.
In the final all-conference standings, Kent, Maleki and Pate were one, two, three, respectively, while Schlageter (sixth) and Schneeberger (ninth) also earned all-conference honors.
Kent, who is working with a new swing coach, said she's getting her game close to where she wants it to be.
"It doesn't show yet yet, but it's going to get there soon," she said. "We've had a great time this fall. Isabelle got her scores down and so have a lot of the others, and that's given us a big advantage. It was an honor to sweep all the league meets. We didn't want to come in here and relax and let it go; we wanted to finish this off well. Everyone played well considering how hot and wet the conditions were."
"Getting out to all those tougher tournaments this year got us ready for these more demanding events," she said. "Mentally, I think we're really ready."