Greeley next for regional champion Bears
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – Winning the Class 4A Western Regional tournament title was a big accomplishment for the Rifle High School girls golf team. Going to the Class 4A state championships as a result of that team victory is the well deserved reward.
That’s exactly the stance the Bears have taken after their 10-stroke victory over second-place Montrose on May 8 at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison. It turned out to be the biggest tournament victory for Rifle in more ways than one, as Rifle and Montrose had alternated times on the podium for much of the season.
The Bears now have a chance to reach one more tournament podium now, however, when the trio of golfers will compete at the state meet Monday and Tuesday at Boomerang Golf Links in Greeley.
“Regionals are tougher,” Rifle girls golf coach Britt Choate said. “You have only one day that determines whether or not you go to state, so it doesn’t get much scarier than that. At state, it’s a lot more relaxed. It’s almost like a reward for all of your hard work.”
Rifle was rewarded, and then some.
Not only did junior Taylor Walters earn her third trip to state, but the Bears reached the state tournament as a team for the first time since 2008, when then-Rifle sophomore Lauren Forney earned a fourth-place finish in the individual standings.
The Bears weren’t the only ones who earned state tournament berths. A fourth-place finish from Caroline Tham-Johansson of Glenwood Springs, along with a third-place finish from Melissa Steinbach of Coal Ridge, also earned that pair a trip to Greeley.
Walters, of course, is thrilled about her individual regional title. The team’s berth in the state tournament means more, though.
“I’m a lot more proud of the fact that team is going to state than my own individual accomplishments,” said Walters, who hit a hole-in-one on the par-3, 147-yard ninth hole at Rifle Creek this past Monday as the team prepared for the state tournament. “I’d just love for us to do well there.”
Walters’ score of 86 at the regional tournament was three strokes better than second-place Kala Keltz of Montrose. A seventh-place score of 92 by Alyx Carter, accompanied by a ninth-place score of 98 by senior Allison Powell, clinched the team berth for the Bears.
“I’m just excited about the privilege of going to state,” said Carter, a sophomore who will be in the tournament for the first time. “I’m real excited to be here, but I don’t really know what to expect yet.”
Rifle has navigated learning curves before, however.
The Bears came away from their regional practice round in Gunnison with a clear strategy and understanding of how to attack the course, and that preparation played a key role in Rifle reaching the state tournament as a team for the first time in four years.
“That really helped us,” said Powell, who is going to state for the second time. “Knowing the course better and knowing what clubs to use ahead of time helped keep all of us in it mentally. Now because of that, it’s a privilege to go to state because we’ve already made it as far as we can go.”
That mental aspect, Choate said, is something her co-coach, Kenda Spaulding, has emphasized and taught well this season. It’s helped each of the Bears not only earn all-conference accolades, but it’s helped them reach this point in the season.
That, along with all off the back-and-fourth team results between Rifle and Montrose, has made this a season to remember for Rifle regardless of their finish in Greeley.
“This is just really exciting and the girls really deserve it,” Choate said. “I mean, we’re already the first-place team on the Western Slope. That says a lot.”
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