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Homestead junior golfer Speedy Kent is not only known for her swiftness and skill on the golf course (or anything else that she puts her mind to), but she is also rapidly becoming known for empathetic spirit.

After she medaled with an astounding 18-hole score of 69 to lead the Highlanders to the WIAA sectional title in a high-pressure and well-played meet on Oct. 4 at MeeKwon, she let it be known she didn't think it was fair state-ranked Franklin should have to stay home after losing in a playoff for the second state team berth to Brookfield Central.

"Every one of us should be at state," Kent said. "They're such a great group of girls. It's just very sad."

She also gave her coach, John Krueger, who knew how intense this meet would be and who seemed to be in need of a relaxing moment after the team scores came in, a great big congratulatory hug afterward.

"He was really happy when he found out that we had won by two," Kent said, "because you could see he was really stressed out about things all day. That hug I gave him was definitely one to remember."

Because Krueger is trying to remember everything about this season as he prepares to step down after leading the team to 13 conference titles in order to make more time for his new duties as assistant athletic director, a position he accepted about a month ago.

The Highlanders wound up finishing fourth in the state meet Oct. 10 and 11 at University Ridge in Madison in what was Krueger's last meet (see Oct. 20 Now for full details).

Speaking after the sectional, Krueger didn't want to get too emotional because he didn't want it affecting how the team played.

"I didn't want it to translate over to what they were doing," Krueger said. "Just let them play the best way they can with no added pressure. The bottom line about all this (the sectional) was that we're all extremely proud of the way the kids performed in a very close meet. We all know that we're very fortunate to come out on the winning end."

That they were.

Playing on their course. the Highlanders turned in an 18-hole score of 331 as Franklin and Central tied with 333. Central won the one-hole aggregate score playoff, 14-15.

Kent was the difference maker for the Highlanders as she went out on the front nine at MeeKwon in an amazing 32. She had six fours, two threes and a chip-in birdie two on the par three sixth.

"I didn't try to do anything different," Kent said. "I was just trying to do as I always do. Live in the present, and focus on what shot I needed to hit at that moment ... I started out with butterflies in my stomach, but then they turned into dragons, and I was able to breath fire.

"In the end, it was just one of those rounds where the golf gods smiled down on me."

She closed with a 37 on the back for her 69, and as one of the last players coming in, she was getting a mixed bag of information of how close the team race actually was.

"There was no doubt some pressure out there," she said. "We had lost to Central by one at the regional, so we were really aware of them. We just tried to focus on the individual shots rather than on the outcome, and that helped."

Kent got help when fellow junior Isabelle Maleki had a near career day, closing the back nine with a 37 to finish with an 80. Other scores included Anne Schlageter with an 89 and Trinidy Pate and Kate Glueckert with 93s each.

"I was getting information on little slips of paper and just going by what people told me," Krueger said. "I was feeling pretty good, but I know never to trust it until I see it on the scoreboard."

And when he did see it on the scoreboard, that's when he got his hug.

Krueger said his three, four and five golfers were all solid, but he knew the major reason the Highlanders made it to state was because of the fire power up top.

"Speedy and Isabelle played pretty much lights out," he said. "That really helped."

And then as Kent wanted him to do, Krueger started to relax.

"It's great that we're going in on such a streak like this," he said. 'It's just great to finish this way. You've got to keep perspective and play the way you're capable of ... as we all know, the competition is still the course. I just let them know that I'll worry about what everyone else is doing and that they should just take it one shot at a time; keep thinking good thoughts on every swing."

In short, giving themselves a mental and emotional hug in the process.

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