Brianna Achs could have been viewed as the odd person out at the great national signing day party that Nicolet held for a group of athletes dominated by the stars of its two-time North Shore Conference champion girls basketball team.
Simply because she's getting a scholarship for rowing and not for basketball at Iowa doesn't diminish her power forward credentials.
"She's a natural for it (rowing)," laughed girls basketball coach Corey Wolf, who was among those beaming the brightest at the event.
Wolf was beaming because she was watching her stars, including returning NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Player of the Year Ashley Green (UW-Milwaukee), Alex Cohen (Northwestern) and Gabby Bronson (UW-Parkside), being feted and signing national letters of intent before a large audience in Nicolet's newly refitted Community Room on Nov. 10.
Achs was just happy to be among the group at a long conference table, with bouquets of flowers and balloons surrounding them on their big day.
"I've only been doing it (rowing) for two years," said Achs, who is also a state caliber thrower in track as well as a basketball player. "I've been down at the Milwaukee Rowing Club for awhile now, and I was really surprised at the number of scholarships they offer in rowing. There were other schools involved, but Iowa was my first love.
"The place was just so beautiful."
But in the near term, Achs, a prospective graphic design and photography major, along with Green, Cohen and Bronson, will focus on finishing up some unresolved hoops issues, like beating WIAA sectional nemesis Oak Creek in its season opener on Nov. 26, and earning an elusive state tournament berth.
"I think we're ready for it," said Green, who is satisfied with her choice of UW-Milwaukee. "This was a tough decision. I really went back and forth on it. UWM, Illinois-Chicago and Valparaiso are all really good schools. In the end, I just went with a gut feeling."
These were the same instincts that District Superintendent Rick Monroe said has served Green and her teammates well in both the academic and athletic world.
"No one knows the sweat, tears and even the injuries you've endured to get this far," he said. "…These four truly define the term scholar athlete. …In some circles, they say this or that sport is life, and it is true with these four. All the qualities that have made them successful as athletes has helped them also become successful as students and people."
The quartet smiled and laughed at all the attention being given them as they outfitted themselves in sweaters and jackets from their chosen universities. They posed for endless pictures, accepted hug after hug and looked to the future.
"It was a tough decision," said the 6-foot-5 center Cohen, who also had powerhouses like Duke and Stanford among her choices. "It was important to stay close to home but I also wanted to be competitive too."
She'd like to major in special education.
"This is all rather new to me," added Bronson, "and I'm glad we're doing this all together. It's just fun to be here with my teammates. (It's) a very exciting day."
Bronson will look to major in mathematics at Parkside, with a possible emphasis in accounting.
Green, who seemed to three full hoops squads (including reserves) worth of relatives and friends at the event, was also grateful for the moment.
"We'll see how it all works out," said Green, "but we've been together so long, so it only seemed right that we do it this way (all together)." Green is taking the ambitious route of majoring in sports medicine with a pre-medical emphasis.
For Wolf, it was an amazing vision, as these athletes, most of whom have been with her since freshmen year, set down the road toward their futures.
"It's like a once-in-a-career type of day," she said. "These four kids have put in a lot of time and sacrificed a lot socially. …It's great to see this all pay off on both an athletic and academic level."
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