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Wedding bells and a coach's whistle: It's all in a fall season for Franklin AD Petric

Friend and Germantown coach Patterson maid of honor

Nov. 7, 2011

Now that this busy, busy autumn sports season is quickly winding down, the first task for second-year Franklin Athletic Director Sara Petric is to find the school a new girls' swim coach.

Because the current one has just got too much on her plate.

Late in the summer, Franklin lost its girls' swim coach to another job and when a replacement couldn't be found on such short notice, Petric, the former head of the Germantown program for three years, found herself in the position of pulling double duty.

From 7 a.m. in the morning 3 p.m. each day and then again after 5:30 p.m. at events involving the Sabers' sports teams, she wore her administrative hat, supervising, coordinating and making sure the games went off smoothly.

But from 3-5:30 p.m. each day she was back to being swim coach for the about 60-some girls in the Franklin swim program.

"It's been relatively OK," said Petric. "The girls have been great and I'm sort of used to this. I just had to change my schedule around a little bit. I have so many other duties, it's just one more on the list.

"It was this way back in high school (when she was a state champion swimmer herself at Mequon's Homestead High School). I was always involved in everything and anything."

Planning a wedding

However, as noted, it has been a much busier fall than usual for Petric.

"I got married about a week ago," she said at a recent home football game on a chilly October night.

And, indeed, she had, tying the knot with Dan Unertl whom she had met about five years ago while both were just getting their education careers fully under way at Germantown High School. Both had majored in English and secondary education, she at Northwestern and he at UW-La Crosse.

"We hit it off right away, I think he asked me out first," she said with a laugh.

Unertl, who is now chair of the English department at Germantown, is a graduate of Hartford and has great athletic bloodlines himself, being cousin to two-time NOW All-Suburban football Player of the Year Matt Unertl of Sussex Hamilton.

The story gets even more interesting in that Petric's maid of honor was none other than Germantown girls swim coach Kate Patterson. Patterson was Petric's assistant during Petric's tenure with the Warhawks (2007-09). The pair became fast friends many years ago when they were swim club pals at the Schroeder Aquatic Center, with Patterson making the long trek up from Racine.

"She was a sprint freestyler herself," said Petric with a chuckle, "but actually her best event was the backstroke."

Patterson took over the Germantown swim program in fall 2010 just after Petric assumed the AD reins at Franklin.

Even with their close bond, Patterson was floored when Petric asked her to become her maid of honor. The ceremony was at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Milwaukee with the reception at the Women's Club of Wisconsin.

Organizational skills helped

"Sara's wedding was amazing!" said Patterson. "I was deeply touched when she asked me to be her maid of honor for her big day. We have been friends for over 15 years, so it meant a lot to me.

"… and I can't believe all the things that she was able to accomplish this fall. It just says so much about Sara and her organizational skills that she could get so much of the wedding planned before school started."

The only real curious thing about the gorgeous Oct. 15 day on which the pair were married, was the timing, especially for Petric, as an athletic director seldom gets any time off except maybe for a short time in summer when the schedule is light. The couple chose not to have a honeymoon and went right back to work having shared a splendid trip to Spain just about a year ago to see a cousin of Petric's who teaches there.

"It's just that I love autumn," Petric said. "I love the colors. I love everything about it. Besides the (cooler) temperatures made it a little easier for Dan and the groomsmen in their tuxes (chuckles)."

She was very pragmatic about the whole situation at that aforementioned chilly football game.

"We can just honeymoon in Franklin (even more laughs)," she said.

The wedding day was precisely four years to the day on which the couple became engaged.

The girls on the Franklin team took it all in stride, said Petric.

"We threw a little party right before the wedding and brought her some gifts," said state-qualifying diver Mel Pearson. "She's been really great about it all fall. She really didn't talk about it much at practice and was really able to keep things separate.

"Still, it was a lot of fun."

She'll miss coaching

Meanwhile, Patterson notes that most of the girls on her very young Germantown team weren't around when Petric was coaching there.

"But they all, of course, wanted to see pictures because they know Sara's husband, Dan (Unertl)," she said. "… No presents though (laughs)."

So Petric has settled into the new normal. The state meet for the girls is Saturday in Madison, and then she'll have the team's awards' banquet and say all the great things she needs to about this overachieving squad of hers.

And then she'll probably go out and hire a new coach, give someone else an opportunity, and then settle into overseeing the winter season.

"Everything is just really good right now," he said. "I may even have a little bit of free time now (more laughs). … I'm really going to miss this (coaching) next fall. The girls made me feel very welcome."

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