Dual-sport high school athletes aren't uncommon, but not many dare try or are successful accomplishing the feat in the same season.
A trio of Kempton sisters from Heritage High School has tried to prove it can be done. Kristin, a 2010 graduate, played tennis and golf in the spring, and the youngest of the siblings, Joanna, a freshman, is following in her footsteps, currently playing the same two sports on the varsity level.
The middle sister, Jenn, a senior, gave it a go until this spring. Jenn played varsity golf and JV soccer her first three years at Heritage but this year opted to spend her time exclusively on the links, where she and Joanna hope to replicate what Kristin and Jenn did as a senior/freshman duo. In 2010, Kristin finished 15th and Jenn tied for 21st in the Class 5A state meet, leading Heritage to fifth place.
Jenn was her team's top placer at state last year, tying for 23rd with rounds of 84 and 76 as Heritage took seventh place with just three of its four entrants completing the two rounds. The Eagles also return junior Erika Truong, who tied for 45th, and senior Kaycee Villanueba. They'll be joined by Joanna Kempton and another freshman, Delaney Benson, for a five-girl rotation that coach Matt Keenan believes makes this a deeper team.
Jenn and Keenan are confident she'll improve on her 2012 performance at state simply because she's not playing soccer this spring and a number of seniors who finished ahead of her are gone.
Jenn is confident she would have made varsity season. But, “Last year I didn't do as well as I could have (at state golf),'' she said. “I didn't practice a lot because I dedicated more time to soccer. It was fun (doing both sports) but I decided I want to focus on golf and try to do better this year.”
Joanna, who plays No. 2 singles on the varsity tennis team, hopes to match Kristin's path at Heritage by competing in both sports throughout high school.
“If it ever gets to be too much, I might (drop one),'' Joanna said. “But I'm going to try to do both. I really like playing both. It would be hard to choose one over the other. I like them both for different reasons.''
“I know how much she loves tennis,'' Jenn said. “I think she should go for it.''
Joanna played in one of the Eagles' two tournaments prior to last week's Heritage Invitational. She teamed with her sister and shot 85 in the Grandview Invitational, a two-girl, best-ball format.
“She shot 85 and we had no others under 88,'' Keenan said. “She only had one practice round with the team before that.''
Though Joanna posted Heritage's best score in her first tournament, Keenan thinks the senior duo of Jenn Kempton and Villanueba will emerge as the team leaders.
Truong is trying to step up for her sister, Alexandria, who as a senior tied for 27th at state last year. Erika shot 88-86 - 174 at state, where Keenan said she was ill. Alexandria, like Jenn Kempton, played much better in the second round, going 85-77.
“I think this year's team is pretty similar to last year but with a little more depth,'' Keenan said. “Last year we were pretty solid 1 through 4, but this year I think we have five we can compete with at any tournament. But I don't know if we can match what we did individually. We lost a senior who finished in the 20s (Alexandria Truong) and it's hard to ask a freshman to step up and do that.''
Just qualifying a team for state is never easy for Heritage. The Eagles play in a regional with Arapahoe and Cherry Creek, and last year those three finished in the top eight at state. Only one team is guaranteed to advance from each regional, though most get two but three is an exception, Keenan said.
“We have a pretty good shot (at finishing in the top three),'' Keenan said. “Depending on how the year goes, I expect us to improve our performance at state this year.''