The Lady Mustangs ran away with the District 5-AAA girls title by 20 strokes, while for the third time this season the Cherokees nipped the Mustangs, this time by two strokes, to take the crown. In their previous two meetings McMinn had won by a single stroke at Springbrook and by only two at Chatata Valley during the regular season.
In girls’ action, Walker Valley galloped away from the field with a 169 team score, with Bradley Central coming in a distant second at 189. Rhea County took third place with a 193 to earn the final team berth for Thursday’s Region 3-AAA back at Bear Trace.
On the boys’ ledger, the Cherokees got surprising help from their No 5 player to post a 305, while the Mustangs were a half a nose back at 307. Cleveland High edged Ooltewah for third place with by a 340-342 margin to earn a spot in the region.
Along with the local teams, Bradley’s Chase Montgomery and Cleveland’s Heidi Barringer earned individual berths in the region tournament and a shot to qualify for the state championship.
“We accomplished our goal,” declared Walker Valley coach Bob Williams. “We wanted to be in the top 3 today to qualify for Thursday. It’s great that our girls have won back-to-back district titles and it would have been nice if the boys could have too, but the big picture is what matters most and we are in the region with a shot to return to the state tournament.”
Both Mustang squads made the state tournament field last fall, with the girls bringing home the state runner-up trophy while the boys placed sixth.
Like many of Monday’s players, Walker Valley junior Katie Bishop struggled some on the front nine but then bounced back after the turn to earn second low-medalist honors with a 6-over-par 78.
“Katie shot 43 on the front, but beginning with a birdie on No. 9 she got things started and turned it around to shoot 1-under (35) on the back nine,” remarked coach Williams, whose girls lost just two regular season matches to Baylor and Boyd-Buchanan, two Chattanooga private schools. “I’m proud of the way she fought back and turned it around.”
Continuing a strong freshman season, Katie Medley rounded out the Lady Mustang score with a 91, while senior Brittani Pederson fired a 101.
Bradley senior Sloane Rakestraw posted an 80 to tie for third low-medalist honors, but fell in a playoff with Rhea County’s Julie Keener and had to settle for fourth.
Kierstyn Blair gave the Bearettes second place with a 109, while Lady Eagle Cierra Holland carded a 113 as Rhea finished third.
Also earning individual berths in Thursday’s region event was Ooltewah’s Samantha Griffin, who was low-medalist with a 2-over 74, Soddy-Daisy’s Dallas Young with an 88, Barringer with a 90, plus McMinn teammates Skylar Jones and Mason Jewell with a 97 and 100 respectively.
“I expected Heidi (Barringer) to qualify and she did what she needed to do,” declared Cleveland coach Nick Cantrell. “She has played great all season and shot an 88 on this course in the City Prep last week. The play today was a little harder. They had the pin placements in tough spots, I think because they had the Mid-Amateur here over the weekend.”
In the boys’ race, the front nine caused problems as well.
McMinn’s Will Zabo took low-medalist honors with an even-par 72, edging Walker Valley junior Hunter Carroll, who shot a 2-over 74 for the day’s second lowest score.
While the Tribe’s No. 1 player, Drew Mayes struggled with an 81, coach Jerry Quirk’s team pulled out the district title with 76s from Cody Housley and No. 5 player Patrick Robey, tying for third low-medalist. Robey and Mayes both stumbled to 43s on the front, but Robey helped secure the crown with a 3-under 33 on the back nine.
Freshman Dylan Lillard and junior Jordan Leggett shined for Walker Valley with 77s. Lillard beat Leggett in a playoff for the fifth low-medalist honors.
The No. 1 and 2 Mustang players, junior Garrett Cantrell and senior Zach Kilby, struggled with a 79 and 80 respectively.
“Garrett (Cantrell) and Zach (Kilby) both had rough front nines but came back to shoot 38 on the back,” explained Williams. “Hunter (Carroll) did well and was very consistent with 37s on both the front and back, plus Dylan (Lillard) and Jordan (Leggett) both had good scores.
Cleveland’s third place finish was topped by matching 79s from senior Carson Griffin and junior Conner Caprara, who were born just one day apart.
The Raider score was rounded out by 91s from Chris Bryant, Tucker Jones and Riley Parker.
“Conner and Carson shooting 79s saved us,” proclaimed Cantrell. “There were only four strokes separating third through sixth place, so every stroke counted. Chris (Bryant) and Tucker (Jones) didn’t shoot as well as they wanted, but we got there. That’s what matters.”
“Everybody starts with a clean slate Thursday,” commented the Raider coach. “You never know what’s going to happen at the region.”
Ooltewah took fourth place in the event with a 342, while Bradley and Soddy-Daisy each shot 346. Rhea County was a distant seventh with a 403.
The Bears were led by Chase Montgomery, who earned an individual region berth with a 79. Corey Bandy and Matt Whitmire carded 87 and 88 respectively for the Bears, while Baylor McGowan added a 92.
Joining Montgomery as an individual qualifier were Ooltewah teammates Parker Sammons (79) and Dillon Grinder (80), plus Soddy-Daisy’s Garrett Gamble and Brandon Noland, who both shot 85.