Eagles boys, girls have high hopes
NEW ULM – While the rest of his teammates were in the middle of playing in the state tournament last spring, New Ulm’s Kelton Schmitz, who was the team’s top player most of the spring, had to settle for watching with a broken wrist as the Eagles finished eighth at the Class AA state tournament.
“It was really hard to do, but I just kind of had to look past it and think about my team,” Schmitz said. “They made it to state and it was awesome, I was just as excited as they were.”
While the injury kept him from competing at state with his team, he did get to enjoy the experience with his teammates. There’s no doubt he intends on making it back this year either as part of the team or as an individual.
The Eagles qualified last year with a core group of juniors that included Schmitz, Matt Saffert, Peder Johnson and Tanner Zupfer. This year, the Eagles will compete in Section 3AA with Marshall, another team that went to state last year, so it’s going to be a challenge to get back to state.
Schmitz and Saffert have been on varsity since the seventh grade. For Saffert, it’s kind of weird being the oldest since he was always one of the younger players on the team.
“It seems kind of normal for me because I’ve been doing it for so long,” Saffert said. “I remember our seventh and eighth grade year, me and Kelton always seemed like the youngest – now that we’re seniors we’re the leaders.”
The Eagles got to the tournament because of a very balanced team.
“We got depth, which is more than a lot of teams can say,” Schmitz said. “Our fifth and sixth player are just as good anybody else’s best player. Most teams don’t have that capability unless you go the cities’ teams.”
Saffert agreed with the depth.
“Kelton was probably our best player and we made it to state without him last year,” Saffert said. “I guess it goes to show how good of our team is. We’ll have Kelton back this year so we should be even better.”
Colin Huffman, Ethan Kraus and Jonah Cooper make up the rest of the team.
The Eagles open the season on April 10.
The New Ulm girls are hoping to have a couple of state qualifiers and they haven’t had an individual qualifier since 2011.
This year, New Ulm will be led by junior Corinne McKeeth, who has just missed the state tournament two years in a row.
“It’s frustrating, but it just motivates me to work harder,” McKeeth said. “It wasn’t a breakdown, it was just a lot of close competition.”
Senior Tasha Holm is another who is looked at to be a leader for the Eagles this year. She’s developed a good friendship with McKeeth both on and off the course.
“It’s a lot easier to play with her because we’ve been together for how long now and it’s much more fun, you’re with someone who you’re used to and you can laugh with,” Holm said.
During the offseason, Holm’s been fine-tuning the short game.
“Individually, I’ve been working on putting and chipping,” Holm said. “I’d like to place in conference, I think I placed 15th last year.”
Holm’s personal-best score is a 105 and this year she’d like to get into the mid 90s.
Joining Holm and McKeeth will be sophomores Emily Bertrang and Taylor Syverson and seniors Julia Schaefer, Kendra Clyne and Sydney Byro.
“I don’t want to get to serious about it because that’s when I start to do bad,” Holm said. “I want to try to stay calm and try to just have a lot more fun.”