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Passing of the torch a common event in the North Shore this spring

Germantown boys track, Homestead, Whitefish Bay and Germantown girls soccer, Whitefish Bay boys golf

Reporters have a love/hate relationship with the long-term success of any athletic program on any level.

On first glance, you love the consistency, the standard of excellence that is set and the glowing historical references to teams past and present it elicits.

But on the other hand, it can get boring after a time, with the luster of repeated success straining and dulling the vocabulary and the imagination of even the most literate of my lot.

And not that I have even the vaguest of ill-wishes against the Germantown boys track team, the Homestead boys golf squad or the Homestead or Whitefish Bay girls soccer teams, but the fact that those long-term success stories did not walk away with league titles this spring, as they have grown accustomed to, is a marker of the growth of other programs in the area.

Of progress.

That's because the other teams have seen these legendary programs' dominance as a tool to fuel their own fire, and as a result they were able to blow some fresh air into potentially stagnant situations. And what was even more refreshing was the sense of perspective and history that came from the mouths of those replaced at the top.

In boys track, first Homestead and Port Washington tied at the league relays meet to end Germantown's five-plus year lock on North Shore Conference events and then Port edged Homestead to officially crown a new king in the league outdoor two weeks ago.

 "We actually had an OK meet," Germantown coach Todd Brawner said of the league outdoor. "It's just that over the years, we always had so much depth, it was like a chorus line. I know we're a little bit on the back-end of all that, but I still love these kids. It's a little disappointing of course, but I've had more fun personally than I've had in a long time and the kids have had fun too."

About the same time, Whitefish Bay ended Homestead's decade-plus lock on the league golf crown, though the inexperienced Highlanders did prevent the Blue Dukes from recording a perfect sweep of league meets this season by stealing away with their 16th straight North Shore 18-hole finale title.

"We actually have an incredible team," Highlander coach Steve O'Brien said. "Our team GPA could wipe out almost anybody elses and they've just been a coaches' dream. But we never compare one team to the next. The history itself is nice to look at but that's all it is, history. We don't try to add onto the pressure the kids are already feeling themselves. We just try to improve and get better."

And getting better is something that the Germantown girls soccer team has been doing for quite some time now, as with a recent 1-0 victory over defending state champion Homestead, the Germantown girls soccer team made history for the school as it earned the first-ever league title in the sport for either a boys or girls squad.

In this particular instance, the grateful attitude of winning co-coach Steve Sperl is instructive. The win over Homestead clinched a tie for the title for the Warhawks. An inspired rout of Grafton a week later gave Germantown a perfect run through the league race and sent the nine-person senior class out as ultimate winners. Gave them the chance to feel the same joy that had previously belonged only to a select few.

"We worked to make sure we finished what we started," Sperl said. "Homestead is still Homestead and they haven't dropped a level. And this game (over Grafton) was very neat. The kids understood what it meant to go 7-0 (in conference) to be outright champs for the first time. They wanted to start something completely new."

And with the shine of their titles still bright in the spring sun, you won't hear talk of empire from these newly-minted title holders, because they know how tough it is to win just one of these things. They know how good the competition is in the North Shore.

"We want to win it, no doubt about that," Bay golf coach Dave Johnson said, "but we want it to be competitive. ..We've always had a lot of good, strong players in this league and we don't root against other players. We want to win against good competition, because no one wins if other teams (in the league) are floundering." 

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