One county tradition resumed, and one might have begun at the Class 7A boys and girls state tournament on Monday and Tuesday. The Lambert girls won their sixth title in seven years, easily topping the leaderboard with a team score of 452, 17 clear of second-place Mill Creek, and the West Forsyth boys won their first-ever title and the first ever for the school in a boys team event, finishing 10 strokes ahead of Walton.
Lambert's Averi Cline was the low medalist on the girls side, finishing a stroke ahead of teammate Rachel Burrell with 147, and West's Jason Quinlan finished second in the boys standings with 145.
For the Longhorns, the title was a return to the norm for the program. Lambert had won five straight titles, from 2013 to 2017, before finishing second in 2018, largely due to a rules violation on the first day of play. There were none of those for the Longhorns this year, but they did have to contend with a stout opponent in Mill Creek, which sat just two strokes behind Lambert after the first day at Chimney Oaks in Homer, despite the Longhorns having their best collective round of the season.
"We were like, 'Okay, it's going to be a battle tomorrow,'" Lambert head coach Chris Roy said.
The Longhorns responded to the pressure, however, by having an even better day, shooting a 221 on Tuesday, 10 strokes better than their collective performance on Monday. Cline shot a 73, a stroke better than her round on Monday, and Rachel Burrell had three birdies on the back nine to shoot a 71, the best single-round score of any golfer in the tournament.
The performance was especially triumphant given the Longhorns' youth: They played two freshmen, in Cline and Iris Cao, a junior in Burrell, and Boutwell was the only senior. With that in mind, they didn't place all the emphasis on reclaiming the title, which had become the expectation for the program. They trusted that with the proper preparation and focus, their talent would deliver the results to which they'd become accustomed.
"I give our girls all the credit," Roy said. "They did what we asked of them, and they came through in a huge way."
The West boys did not have such a tight squeeze on the leaderboard after the first day, and while their second round as a team wasn't as dominant as Lambert's, the Wolverines still lived up to the promise they showed when they won the area championship and entered state as one of the favorites.
West led Cherokee by seven strokes after the first day, and while the Chiefs didn't collapse on the second, it was Walton that stormed ahead instead. The Wolverines were consistent, though, following their round of 304 with a 305 on day two, which put them well clear of the Raiders. Jason Quinlan and Peyton Balent led West from an individual standpoint: Quinlan finished second individually with a 145 over the two days, and Balent tied for third overall with a 147.
The Wolverines prepared stringently for the two-day tournament, being sure to hydrate in anticipation of the hot conditions and tailoring their style of play -- "boring golf," as head coach James Hallewell called it -- to be consistent and low-risk. That turned out to be a sage move, as the course at Hamilton Mill was playing hard and fast due to the heat.
Hallewell, who just finished his second season as the team's head coach -- it was Roy who led the Wolverines before that, prior to moving to Lambert -- recognized the significance of the title for the school as a whole. As someone who's been at West since it opened in 2007 and has also coached tennis for the Wolverines, Hallewell was happy to have a direct hand in an important first for the school.
"To be honest, I didn't care what team is was going to be," he said.