Washburn Rural's girls golf coach Jared Goehring was in Hesston a year ago for the Class 6A state tournament, but something was missing.
Due to injuries to Junior Blue regulars Kaitlyn Crough and McKenna Merrick prior to regional competition, perennial 6A contender Rural failed to earn a girls state team berth for the first time in Goehring's coaching career.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Junior Blues will be back at full strength for the 6A state meet Monday and Tuesday at Emporia Muncipal Golf Course after sweeping city, Centennial League and regional championships.
Washburn Rural had to overcome tough weather conditions and some struggles on the course in last Monday's regional tournament at Heritage Park in Olathe, but came through with a 14-stroke team win as senior Aliyah North shot an 81 to finish second individually and junior Avery Scott finished fourth with an 83.
"It was kind of just survive and advance, which is all coaches talk about this time of year,'' Goehring said. "It wasn't shaping up weather-wise to be the best day for us, so we were just trying to get by and get down to Emporia as quick as we could.''
Washburn Rural also got a top-10 finish from sophomore Raegan Petersen, who tied for ninth with an 89, while senior Merrick tied for 11th with a 92 to round out the Junior Blues' top four as Rural won the team championship by a 345-359 margin over Olathe West.
"It was something we set out to do as soon as last year got over, that we wanted to go back and capture a regional championship,'' Goehring said of the regional win. "We did that and this senior class has been tremendous this season, so it was good to get everyone qualified as a team and get back in the conversation where we belong this year.''
Goehring believes that if the Junior Blues play like they're capable that Rural can challenge for a team championship. The Junior Blues have only lost once on the year, finishing second to Blue Valley West in the Lawrence Invitational.
"It's been a tremendous season, but what people remember the most is what you do in the postseason, so we need to put our best foot forward and rely on those returning letter-winners to lead us,'' Goehring said.
Scott tied for ninth in last year's state tournament while Crough tied for 13th in 2019.
Topeka High sophomore Avery Zimmerman was the top individual qualifier for the state tournament, tying for 11th at regionals with a 92.
The first round of the 36-hole state tournament will start at 9 a.m. Monday.
After tying for fifth in the 2019 5A state tournament as a freshman, Seaman junior standout Lois Deeter opted out of the COVID-19-altered 2020 season.
But Deeter will be back at state Monday and Tuesday at Hutchinson's Carey Park after finishing second individually and helping the Vikings qualify as a team with a third-place finish in last Monday's 5A regional tournament at Cypress Ridge.
Deeter, who shot a career-low 66 earlier this fall, shot a 75 at regionals to finish second while Seaman also got a ninth-place individual finish from Avery Samuelson, keying the Vikings' third-place finish behind Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Bishop Carroll.
Shawnee Heights will also have a pair of competitors at state after seniors Kameron Burnam and Olivia Morgan qualified as individuals.
Monday's first round will tee off at 9 a.m.
Hayden punched its ticket to the Class 4A state tournament, which will be held Monday and Tuesday at Salina Municipal, with a second-place team finish in last Monday's regional tournament at Clay Center.
Sophomore Avery Grunert and senior Kate Roeder paced the Wildcats at regionals, with Grunert tying for sixth and Roeder tying for seventh, while Hayden also got a 10th-place regional finish from junior Ava Teply.
Roeder tied for 20th in the 4A state meet a year ago.
Tournament play will begin at 9 a.m. Monday.
Silver Lake will compete in the 3A state meet at Hesston Golf Course after claiming a regional championship last Monday at Council Grove.
Sophomore Madeline Fieger and freshman Taylor Zordel keyed the Eagles' regional performance, tying for eighth place individually.
The two-day 3A-1A state tournament will tee off at 10 a.m. on Monday.
SHAWNEE COUNTY STATE GIRLS GOLF QUALIFIERS
At Emporia Municipal
Topeka High -- Avery Zimmerman.
Washburn Rural -- Kaitlyn Crough, McKenna Merrick, Mallory Nelson, Aliyah North, Raegan Petersen, Avery Scott.
At Carey Park, Hutchinson
Seaman -- Riley Adams, Aspen Burgardt, Lois Deeter, Madyson Hardesty, Avery Samuelson, Jaycee Zimmerman.
Shawnee Heights -- Kameron Burnam, Olivia Morgan.
At Salina Municipal
Hayden -- Claire Brown, Avery Grunert, Kyleigh Johnson, Hannah Reynoldson, Kate Roeder, Ava Teply.
At Hesston Golf Course
Silver Lake -- Olivia Day, Madeline Fieger, Kate Osterhaus, Cassie Smith, Jaiden Whitehead, Taylor Zordel.