KEARNEY — The memory hasn’t died.
On the course, golfers faced nasty conditions. On the leaderboard, the Kearney Catholic girls made their move, climbing to the top.
Then it stopped.
Play was suspended. All scores reverted to the first day marks, so the 36-hole state tournament became an 18-hole tournament and the Stars settled for fourth place.
"After last year, we’re still wanting it," KCHS coach Amanda Roberts said.
Four of the five return to North Platte’s Lake Maloney Golf Course for this year’s Class C state tournament scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
"We’re wanting it this year, that’s one thing for sure. We’re really wanting it," Roberts said. "I think we’re really excited. Girls at practice ... are getting that attitude. They’re asking, ‘When are going to get there? What’s the plan?’"
The Stars are among the favorites along with Centennial Conference rivals Lincoln Christian and Columbus Scotus. They finished 1-2-3 with Lincoln Christian winning by 26 strokes. Kearney Catholic edged Columbus Scotus by two strokes for second. The Crusaders also had an impressive district score, which Kearney Catholic did not. The four-player score of 404 the Stars posted while winning their district was among their highest scores of the year.
Freshly aerated greens and windy conditions had the Stars struggling. But Roberts hopes the perseverance her team showed in winning the district will reap benefits.
"I was glad we won. I know the girls can do a lot better and have a lot better scores," she said. "A lot of these girls have been golfing pretty well. They know what they need to do. Now they just have to put it in motion. ... If we play a straight game and we play smart, we’re going to be fine."
One of the team’s strengths has been its consistency. The lineup hasn’t changed from the start of the year and seniors Addison Mitchell and Ashley Waggoner have gone back and forth as the team’s top player.
"When one doesn’t have that great of a day, the other one more than makes up for it," Roberts said.
Senior Abbie Halpin, junior Morgan Sheckler and freshman Madie Waggoner make up the rest of the entry.
Bearcats looking for top-half finish in Class A
While Kearney Catholic hopes to battle for a trophy in Class C, Kearney High has its sights set on a top-half finish in Class A where Lincoln Southwest is the overwhelming favorite. The Silver Hawks easily won the district tournament at Kearney’s Awarii Dunes with Omaha Westside second and Kearney third. If the Silver Hawks land in the rough, Millard North and North Platte are among the teams ready to pounce.
The Bearcats, who were 11th last year, are just outside that circle.
"We would really like to finish somewhere inside top six and we think that’s feasible if we play the way we know we can and the way we have at times this year," coach JD Carson said.
Throughout the year, Kearney has beaten everyone outside of the top five teams and the Bearcats are familiar with the Norfolk Country Club, site of the Class A state tournament. Kearney also has plenty of state tournament experience, having qualified four of the last five years.
Carson said his team has made some minor adjustments this week, focusing on the mental approach and decision making, taking into consideration where they can and can’t miss and how to avoid trouble.
"It’s a long course, It’s typically wet, it seems. If you can get a drive in play, you’re off to a great start and you’re ahead of most of the field," he said.
Like Kearney Catholic, the starting five has been the same since Day 1 of the season. And, they’ve been competitive with each other.
"That’s been the fun thing this year. Every single one has been our high scorer, and every single one has been our low scorer. ... It would be nice if they all did it on the same day," he said.
Emily Jensen, Hannah Lydiatt and Eve Edwards have state tournament experience while Betsey Lewis and Megan Ernst will be newcomers to the state tournament field.
As a team, Carson believes the Bearcats are honing in on their best effort of the year.
"Scorewise it doesn’t appear we’re peaking but if you look at our last meets as far as the difficulty of course and the cooler weather and who we’ve been going against, I think it’s pretty deceptive," he said.