Germantown - It was 2001 and Megan Loehndorf had just won the 500-yard freestyle and led the Germantown girls swim team to a ninth-place finish in the WIAA State Division 1 meet.
The Warhawks have not been close to the top 10 at state since.
Until Saturday that is, when girls with the names of Siebenaller, DeGrace, Schabel and Kurtenbach brought the homeless Germantown swim program back home among the state's elite as the Warhawks broke at least four school records en route to an impressive seventh-place team finish.
"The things that are occurring now are what I've always hoped for the program," former Warhawks coach Dick Zache said. "I don't want the stuff we did 10 years ago to be the pinnacle. What they've got there now is a real solid corps of about six girls and they've taken the torch and carried it forward.
"And I hope they can inspire others to continue in their footsteps."
Zache was coach of the Warhawks during their heyday from 1989-2006 that included a pair of WIAA State Division 2 team titles in 1992 and 1993.
He was there at the end when the old pool gave way and referendums to replace it failed. The girls have maintained an independent squad and have practiced at various places including Homestead High School and Schroeder Aquatic Club ever since. The boys have been part of a co-op based at Menomonee Falls for several years.
It's been hard sometimes to maintain the girls' independence, as numbers have fluctuated over the years despite the dedication of new coaches Sara Petric Unertl, Kate Patterson and now Kevin Ewald, but the program has survived.
And it thrived on Saturday, as the Warhawks scored 109 points for their spot as Waukesha South/Mukwonago successfully defended its title with 279.
As it was the previous week at the sectional, the 200 medley relay team set the tone as the crew of Khia Kurtenbach, Haley DeGrace, and Samantha and Rachel Siebenaller broke their week old school record with an astounding 1:47.72, to get on the medal stand with a fourth.
"It's just amazing that to go under 1:50 in the medley relay is now routine," Zache said. "I used to think that times of 1:52 and 1:53 were special."
Freshman Samantha Siebenaller followed that up with another medal and another school record (which was only a week old) with a tie for fourth in the 50 free (23.94).
She just missed another medal by just 0.25 of a second in the next race, as she took seventh in the 100 butterfly as she went more than a second faster than her sectional time in 57.96.
Big sister, junior Rachel Siebenaller, followed that up with an 11th in the 100 free (52.98). Earlier, she had chopped off .085 of a second in moving up and taking 10th in the 200 free (1:54.82).
The 200 free relay team of both Siebenallers, DeGrace and Schabel took an amazing 1.68 seconds off their school record time of a week ago, in taking ninth (1:39.18) while Kurtenbach was ninth in the 100 backstroke, taking more than a second off her best time with a 58.5.
DeGrace picked up a medal of her own with a school record of 1:05.63 in the 100 breast stroke. The time, 0.7 of a second better than her sectional clocking, was good for sixth.
In the last event of the night, coach Ewald changed the lineup around a little bit and got the only senior on the state crew, Schabel, one more state race and gave newcomer to state, sophomore Skye Beckes, some needed experience, as the two paired up with Kurtenbach and DeGrace to take 24th in the 400 free relay (3:45.96).
Zache, who still teaches history at the high school and who gives encouragement to the girls on the team when they come to talk to him, couldn't be happier.
"It's because of the dedication of a handful of kids," he said of the program's resurgence, "and then other kids see that and they want to be a part of it, too. Then hopefully those kids will carry on the tradition and build onto what the others have already done."
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