By JOSH MCDONALD
RATHDRUM — Mia Hamm once said, “it is more difficult to stay on top than it is to get there.”
The Kellogg Wildcat boys proved this statement true earlier this week, when they successfully defended their state championship from last year by adding another big white banner to their program’s growing collection.
Last year the Wildcats were barely threatened at the state competition, this year they found themselves making a second day comeback.
Playing on a course that is as challenging as it is familiar for the Wildcats, Twin Lakes Golf Course, Kellogg’s big win can be attributed to four really strong performances, but two of them were what sealed the deal for the Wildcats.
During the first day of competition, as the first three Kellogg players wrapped up their rounds, the Wildcats trailed Fruitland by 19 strokes.
Tyler Gibbons, playing out the fourth spot, played 18 strokes better than his Fruitland counterpart to insure that the Wildcats only trailed by a single stroke headed into the second day.
“We knew that Tyler Gibbons was playing well, and that his counterpart from Fruitland was struggling,” coach Simon Miller said. “Twin Lakes can really be merciless when a golfer is not playing well, so we knew we had a chance to make up some of the 19-stroke deficit. We knew Fruitland's top three kids could really go low, so at that point we were just hoping to make up 10 strokes. Thanks to a solid and disciplined round by Tyler, we were able to make up all but one of the 19-stroke Fruitland lead. We knew that we were capable of playing much better, but we also knew that Fruitland top three had played so well that it would be tough for them to play much better than their first day.”
And while teammates Taylor Bush, Cade Finlay and Hogan Samuelson all did their parts for their team, it was Kellogg’s final team member who spearheaded their charge to back to back state championships.
Chase Jerome finished day one leading his team with a 78, and then pulled an up and down round together on day two to finish with a 77.
Miller was thrilled with his team’s performance, but credited Jerome’s play as what really propelled the Wildcats to their big victory.
“Because it was one heck of a team effort, playing for one another, it is tough to pick out one performance, but because it is golf, and because your score really tells the story, I would have to go with senior Chase Jerome,” Miller said. “His two-day total of 155, just four strokes from medalist, was really, really crucial. Chase was clutch for us the last two days. You can't ask for anything better from one of your seniors, and one of your hardest working kids. Chase never complains. He just works hard.”
Using a solid game plan, and figuring out what his team’s strengths were, Miller believes that it was the final half of day two that really sealed the win up.
“We had a game plan going into day two: Identify which hole(s) were giving us fits, and alter the strategy on those holes. Then we decided to play for each other, more of a team mentality, than an individual medalist mind-set. It is a nuanced way of playing, not just conservative, but smart,” Miller said. “We think the turning point was when the boys turned on to the final nine. We knew once they got out of the back nine they could score a bit. We were able to make some birdies, and even eagles to get back on track.”
Chase Jerome (155) finished third, Tyler Gibbons (164) sixth, Taylor Bush (166) seventh and Cade Finlay (168) eighth.
Miller expressed his gratitude for his entire team, but gave a special shout out to the longest tenured member of his varsity team, Hogan Samuelson, who struggled to find his groove as he had in previous seasons.
“I am particularly proud of Hogan,” Miller said. “This season hasn't turned out like any of us envisioned for Hogan. He is one heck of a golfer, with some pretty impressive rounds in his KHS golf career. Despite struggling mightily to get that form back, Hogan still went out and played, when he could have just as easily given up.”
3A Boys Team Scores:
1, Kellogg 323-330—653.
2, Fruitland 322-345—667.
3, Kimberly 373-332—705.
4, Homedale 367-360—727.
5, Snake River 378-350—728.
6, Buhl 390-420—810.
7, Teton 410 - 427—837.
8, Timberlake 427-466—893.
The Kellogg girls battled their way to a solid third place finish at the 3A state tournament.
Led by third place individual Kat Rauenhorst, the Wildcats faced steep competition from Buhl and Weiser, but still brought home their third trophy in the last three years.
The girls had an off day during their first 18 holes, but rallied and put together a solid second day performance to keep them inside the top three.
Rauenhorst played stellar both days, and got some help from her teammates during day two to help the Wildcats hold their position.
Anika Sundstrom rallied from a team-worst day one score, and proceeded to cut 20 strokes off her individual score to finish with Kellogg’s second-best score.
Sundstrom’s performance was part of a 31-stroke improvement from day one to day two and was something Miller was quite proud of.
“Cutting 31 strokes off your day one team score is pretty dang impressive,” Miller said. “These girls are champions in my eyes. What changed the most from day one to day two was confidence. Anika shot what I believe to be a career best 97 on the biggest stage in high school golf. She was a transformed girl that day, swinging freely and confidently. I credit Coach Danny Kenyon for making a subtle swing adjustment and speaking some encouraging words to Anika. She really responded and led the way for the girls today.”
With Kellogg golf being the current gold standard in Kellogg High School sports, the girls were disappointed, but Miller didn’t let their disappointment overshadow his pride.
“I'm proud of Kat for battling all day long, and of all the girls for a strong third place finish,” Miller said. “Because they have set the bar so high, as state champions a couple seasons ago, they are a little bit disappointed, but third place is an impressive finish. They are amazing kids.”
Kat Rauenhorst finished with a 174, Morgan Nusz a 220, Emma Bristow a 215 and Anika Sundstrom shot a 214 to round out the Kellogg scores.
3A Girls Team Scores:
1, Buhl 381-378—759.
2, Weiser 391-385—776.
3, Kellogg 427-396—823.
4, Kimberly 433-417—850.
5, Timberlake 433-441—874.
6, Shelley 478-442—920.
7, Marsh Valley 463-462—925.
8, Parma 482-467—949.